Jude Law Playing Pope in TV Show on HBO

There’s a new comedy/drama show coming out called The Young Pope, directed and written by Paolo Sorrentino (an Italian film director). It’s shooting in Italy this summer, as a co-production between HBO and the Sky Network over in the UK, as well as Sky Italia and Canal+ in France, as announced at Cannes.

Jude Law will play Lenny Belardo, an Italian-American conservative Catholic who’s unexpectedly made Pope — Pope Pius XIII.

He’s “a complex and conflicted character, so conservative in his choices as to border on obscurantism, yet full of compassion towards the weak and poor… a man of great power who’s stubbornly resistant to the Vatican courtiers, unconcerned with the implications for his authority. During the series, Belardo will face losing those closest to him and the constant fear of being abandoned, even by his God… however, not afraid of undertaking the millennial mission of defending that same God and the world, representing Him.”

There are some hints in the press material that the near-future show might be presented as if it’s a historical drama from even further in the future. That could be pretty amusing.

Paolo Sorrentino said the series would be about: “The clear signs of God’s existence. The clear signs of God’s absence. How faith can be searched for and lost. The greatness of holiness, so great as to be unbearable when you are fighting temptations and when all you can do is to yield to them. The inner struggle between the huge responsibility of the Head of the Catholic Church and the miseries of the simple man that fate (or the Holy Spirit) chose as Pontiff. Finally, how to handle and manipulate power in a state whose dogma and moral imperative is the renunciation of power and selfless love towards one’s neighbor. That is what The Young Pope is about.”

So yeah, this could be cruddy or good. I hope it will be good, as there’s certainly lots of room for drama in a papal West Wing. It will only be 8 episodes long, but the press release says it’s about “the beginning” of the pontificate of Pius XIII. So I think they want to leave it open for other seasons.

Either way, I guess we’ll find out what Mr. Sorrentino’s pet peeves are.

(And since it’s a Euro production airing on HBO, there will probably be gratuitous naked people but no fight scenes at all. Although I would laugh very hard if they only show Baroque paintings of naked people, with no live-action nakedness at all.)

Jude Law is also playing the old evil King Vortigern in a King Arthur flick that Guy Ritchie is directing, so he’s a busy man.

The Deacon’s Bench says “Pope Lenny?” and Variety quotes Tony Grisoni, one of the writers:

“No one, even at the Vatican, is prepared for how hard-line this American pope really is.”

Mr. Grisoni is from the UK. He has written lots of screenplays for and with Terry Gilliam, as well as what sounds like a fairly dark trilogy of UK crime stories. So it looks like anything could happen.

He recently tweeted a picture of an unusually solemn funeral in Soho.

UPDATE: The Jim Gaffigan Show looks good. It’s the story of a Catholic comedian with kids, as written and played by a Catholic comedian with kids. You can watch the first ep at the website.

In case you haven’t been to church in the last 25 years — yes, we have a lot of young African missionary priests working over here in the US. And they have accents and attitudes pretty much exactly like that nice young priest in this show. It’s so common that it should be a cliche onscreen, but nobody else is doing it! Advantage, Gaffigan!

UPDATE: But we already know The Real O’Neals is going to be junk. Curt Jester. The Deacon’s Bench.


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