The Two Popes: Jonathan Pryce’s ‘emotional moment’ in Vatican

Hopkins and Pryce as the two popes sitting togetherImage copyright
Peter Mountain

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Sir Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce as Pope Benedict and Cardinal Bergoglio, who was to become Pope Francis

Actor Jonathan Pryce has described the “emotional moment” when his latest film was shown at The Vatican.

Pryce stars as Pope Francis alongside Sir Anthony Hopkins in the Netflix production The Two Popes.

The film explores the friendship between Pope Francis and Pope Benedict around the time the papacy transferred to Francis, who has been head of the Catholic Church since 2013.

It is not known if the Pope has seen the critically-acclaimed film.

However Pryce said he believed it had received a “seal of approval” from the church.

Speaking to BBC Wales, the veteran Welsh actor described showing the film at a special Vatican screening.

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Peter Mountain

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The film depicts the workings of the Vatican

While the Pope did not attend, Pryce said: “We don’t know if he has seen it. In pre-production and during the making of the film, the Vatican neither said yay nor nay to it. One of the cardinals who came [to the screening] was very close to Benedict and to Francis.

“I was very nervous about meeting him and I talked to him at the end of the film – he came out of the film and he was smiling, as were the other priests and cardinals. They had enjoyed the film. They thought it was very honest.”

Pryce said the cardinal “asked for a DVD that he could take to Francis for him to see, because he was convinced he would like this film”.

“I didn’t exactly burst into tears but it was quite an emotional moment to have that kind of seal of approval.”

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Pryce’s performance has already been recognised with a Golden Globe nomination for best actor, while Sir Anthony is nominated for best supporting actor.

The film and screenplay are also nominated.

During the film, Pope Francis’ past in Argentina is explored, while his popularity as a cardinal is contrasted with Pope Benedict’s conservatism.

“The film, if it is about anything, it is about forgiveness,” Pryce said. “It is about two old men who just happen to be one Pope, one cardinal at the time, confessing to each other and asking for forgiveness.”

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Peter Mountain

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Jonathan Pryce as Cardinal Bergoglio casting his vote for the papacy

Internet users have highlighted Pope Francis’ similarity with Pryce’s character in Game of Thrones, the High Sparrow – Pryce said the similarity helped convince him to take the part.

The film also provides an opportunity to see two of Wales’ most respected actors alongside each other on screen.

“There was only Tony and me to acknowledge the fact that we were both Welsh, and it was important to us both. Two Welsh Popes at last!” said Pryce.

“There was a time when he announced that he was going to retire, when he was about 60. Me, and a lot of other Welsh actors, thought: ‘Yes! Now we will get a chance to play all the parts that he does.’ But he didn’t retire, and he is still doing all the parts, so I am waiting for him to go.”

He added: “I have enormous respect for [Sir Anthony Hopkins]. We had a wonderful time.”

The Two Popes is in some cinemas and on Netflix from 20 December.

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Vincenzo Pinto

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The real Pope Francis took over when Pope Benedict retired