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In the new film out about the life of Pope Francis, Call Me Francesco, Argentine actor Rodrigo de la Serna (The Motorcycle Diaries) plays the pope as a young man, when he was known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio. The film covers the time from when the man who would be pope leaves his girlfriend to join the order of the Jesuits through his calling to the Vatican.
Based on the book by Giorgio Grignaffini, Call Me Francesco mainly centers on the dark years of Argentina’s military dictatorship from 1976-1983 and Bergoglio’s activities to keep those around him safe while people continued to disappear. The film also examines the church’s difficult and questionable role during the dictatorship.
Bergoglio is shown working in the poor suburbs of Cordoba before he’s called back to Buenos Aires, rising to the ranks of both archbishop and cardinal, before becoming the first pope ever from the Americas.
De la Serna spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the great responsibility of taking on the role of the pope, someone loved the world over, calling Bergoglio’s tale “not only the story of Argentina, but the story of the world.”
His research for the part involved studying everything from numerous YouTube videos to the spiritual practices of St. Ignacio de Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order. He also got close to many people who knew the Pope in Argentina, including Bishop Eduardo Horacio Garcia, who was bishop of the pope’s order for 15 years. Of preparing for the role, De la Serna says, “It was a very arduous task. It was very difficult.”
“People say that it’s impossible to go into the mind of a Jesuit,” says de la Serna. “They’re very strategic men with a logic that’s very difficult to understand if you’re not in that order. So I think in the case of Jorge Bergoglio, he has a monumental spirituality that he developed. He’s a character with a very large dimension to him. Cinema is a difficult form to depict what happens when one prays. There is a difficultly when it comes to actually doing the job of acting. It was very frustrating for me to meet my limitations, intellectually and spiritually.”
In terms of who else could fill the shoes of playing the pope, De La Serna isn’t sure, but he does know one thing: “It’s very difficult to interpret the history of Argentina and the situation in which this man lived. Only a Latin American actor could have done this.”
The film, with its 15 million-euro budget, represents a substantial investment for Berlusconi’s Mediaset’s Medusa and TaoDue companies. Call Me Francesco is the first movie Mediaset is producing within Italy for international distribution with the goal of many more following in this strategy.
Call Me Francesco is currently being sold in 40 countries for film and television.
It releases in Italy on 700 screens on Dec. 3. The film will have its world premiere at the Vatican on Dec. 1 for an audience of 7,000 people.
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