HBO’s new big-budget series “The Young Pope” chronicles the fictional character Lenny Beraldo, a conservative American Cardinal who becomes Pope Pius XIII. An official press release describes the character as “complex and conflicted” and “so conservative in his choices as to border on obscurantism, yet full of compassion for the weak and poor. He is a man of great power who is stubbornly resistant to the Vatican courtiers, unconcerned with the implications to his authority.”
Playing this multi-layered man is multi-layered British born actor Jude Law, who received Oscar nominations for his performances in “Cold Mountain” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley” (two characters who also happen to be Americans). In HBO’s new series, Law’s freshly appointed pontiff will find himself recruited by the Vatican to squash the recently rising liberals. However, when speaking with Variety last month, series co-writer Tony Grisoni warned, “No one, even at the Vatican, is prepared for how hard-line this American Pope really is.”
Italian director Paolo Sorrentino, whose film “The Great Beauty” won the Oscar for best foreign-language last year, will direct all eight episodes scheduled to begin filming in July. Sorrentino also wrote the series, along with Umberto Contarello, Stefano Rulli, and Grisoni, creating a journey teased by the press release: “Beraldo will face losing those closest to him and the constant fear of being abandoned, even by his God.” Yet, despite these crippling challenges, Beraldo will remain a man “not afraid of undertaking the millennial mission of defending that same God and the world representing Him.”
Italian producers for the series describe it as thematically exploring “dreams, fears, conflicts, battles, the search for meaning and the need for love of a pope, seen through the prism of Sorrentino’s unique vision capable of creating worlds that are incredible and more real than reality itself.”
As a collaborative effort between HBO, Rupert Murdoch’s European paybox Sky and France’s Canal Plus, “The Young Pope” finds itself the first multi-player of its kind for Italy, whose film entity Wildside will produce with France’s Haut et Court TV co-producing. Production will be based out of Rome’s Cinecitta Studios, wrapping in early 2016. Though filming will predominantly take place in Italy, additional locations include the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Africa.