At $45 million, it’s Italy’s most expensive production ever
In this joint production between Sky Atlantic, Canal+, and HBO, with filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino at the helm, Jude Law plays the new pope in town. He’s known to the world as Pope Pius XIII, but to his surrogate mother and close adviser, Sister Mary (Diane Keaton), he’s still little Lenny Belardo. Oh, yeah — this American is originally from one of New York’s “prestigious” boroughs, and many of those East Coast sensibilities remain intact.
As played by Law, this pope has a chain-smoking and Cherry Diet Coke habit, and is just as nuanced as the sitting pope, but that’s where the similarities end. Pope Lenny accuses the prior regime, which kept an open mind on issues of homosexuality and abortion, of “trying to look hip.” That’s right: If you assumed the HBO route would be for the titular pope to be as liberal and all-inclusive as they come, you’d be wrong.
Sorrentino says, “After a [more progressive] pope like Francis, we cannot exclude one like Lenny. He’s a pope who can exist in the very near future.”
For a pope so brilliantly skilled in public relations, like Francis, there has curiously been no comment on the show — this from the man shunning the papal apartments for a basic hotel, driving a second-hand Volvo, and washing the feet of the destitute.
From the Vatican itself: resounding silence. Why? When the first episode aired on Italian television, it was a huge hit, and received the highest rating ever for the first episode of a Sky drama. It has also already been green-lit for a second season.
“The Young Pope” — which premieres on HBO in the U.S. on Jan. 15 — is described in The Guardian as Sorrentino’s “Twin Peaks,” a nod to the auteur’s transition to the small screen after nabbing an Oscar in 2013 for his film “The Great Beauty.”
The miniseries is Italy’s most expensive TV production ever — $45 million. And it’s paid off in record national ratings and that aforementioned second season.
More about the premise: Belardo is the first-ever American Holy Father and the youngest pope elected by the College of Cardinals. Ordained on the misguided notion that his inexperience and good looks would make him pliable and profitable, Lenny is revealed to be more than the Vatican bargained for.
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