Anthony McCarten on the "Imaginative Speculation" That Went Into Writing 'The Two Popes'

Taika Waititi, Lorene Scafaria, Kasi Lemmons, Destin Cretton and Charles Randolph joined for the annual Writer Roundtable.

"At its heart, The Two Popes is the story of a progressive and a conservative," Anthony McCarten told the Writer Roundtable. "We have these two camps. We are not quite sure which will ensure our future better than the other and there's so much anger passing back and forth. The middle seems to have collapsed."

"This project was about trying to get these two positions into dialogue with each other in a debate. They are highly combative at the beginning, but they find peace with each other," McCarten told the Roundtable. The Netflix film stars Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce as Pope Benedict and Pope Francis, respectively.

"It's embedded in the truth," McCarten said of the two real-life Popes, who met three times. "There's a lot of research that went into what the stated positions were. It's imaginatively speculating on what transpires between two people. It's like a road washed out at intervals. We have known details, but in between those gaps, we have to infuse with our own. We try and be as emotionally authentic as we can within the parameters of the people we are dealing with."

McCarten, a three-time Oscar nominee, also talked about how he refused to work with now-disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein, even when he was just starting out in his career. "Some sort of compass that just said, 'No. Danger, Will Robinson,'" McCarten said of Weinstein. "My self-defense mechanism kicked in and I just thought, 'I don't want to become a victim of what I know he's done with other people.'"

McCarten has three career Oscar nominations, one for the screenplay for The Theory of Everything and two for best picture for Theory and The Darkest Hour. He also wrote the screenplay for last year's hit Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.

The full Writer Roundtable is set to air Feb. 2 on SundanceTV. Scafaria appears on the roundtable panel along with Charles Randolph (Bombshell), Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit), Kasi Lemmons (Harriet), Anthony McCarten (The Two Popes) and Destin Cretton (Just Mercy). Follow all the Oscar-season roundtables at