NEW YORK — After four decades, Jonathan Pryce is being touted for a first-ever best actor Oscar nomination for “The Two Popes.”
A Tony- and Olivier-winning stage veteran whose film and TV credits include “Game of Thrones” and “Evita,” Pryce, 72, plays current Roman Catholic Pope Francis opposite Anthony Hopkins’ Pope Benedict XVI.
Of the Oscar buzz, “I’m very gratified that it’s coming out of a film I’m so proud of. I don’t know how I’d feel otherwise,” Pryce ventured at a post-screening reception.
If it’s slightly intimidating to play anyone living, isn’t it especially daunting when it’s the present pope?
“This actor’s preparation is 47 years working, which gives you the time and the confidence to take your time with something like this.
“The great thing was the script — all the prep had been done.”
Interestingly, Pryce was already a fan. “When he was made pope, like a lot of people I followed him and had begun to admire him in a way I’d never felt about any pope.
“I’m not religious,” he pointed out. “I was brought up a Presbyterian in Wales. So a Catholic church is a long way from my beginnings. Also, the idea of working with Anthony Hopkins was irresistible.”
“Two Popes” has been one of the surprises of the season. Who knew there was so much humor, so many laughs?
“I was surprised. We didn’t make it thinking any of it was funny. So the first time I saw it, it was a big audience at the Telluride Film Festival, and they laughed at those first frames of the phone call, it was a surprise!
“It was also very gratifying because you could feel the audience sit back and say, ‘I’m going to enjoy this.’ Like all good drama, the humor highlights the darkness and vice versa.”
Pryce, who’s been starring on Broadway for several months, hasn’t heard from the pope yet.
“The Vatican kept very quiet while we were making it. They neither approved nor disapproved.
“We’ve heard now they’ve had a screening in the Vatican. We haven’t gotten the reaction yet. But there’s a feeling they might want to do something, to talk about it. Hopefully, I’ll go to meet him.”
If anyone wonders how “Two Popes” got access to the Sistine Chapel, the answer is, “All that was recreated in (Rome’s) Cinecitta Studios.
“The proud boast of the set designer is that it’s 50 centimeters bigger than Michelangelo’s original. So it is the world’s biggest Sistine Chapel.”
(“The Two Popes” opens Friday.)
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