Rome Film Festival: Paolo Sorrentino on Casting Jude Law as the 'Young Pope'

Paolo Sorrentino - H 2015
AP Images

Paolo Sorrentino - H 2015

The Oscar-winning director also talked about some of his favorite films at the fest's new cinema conversations.

Paolo Sorrentino is notoriously coy about discussing projects before they’re out, but at the Rome film festival, the Academy Award-winning director took time out from shooting his eight-part TV series The Young Pope to discuss why he chose Jude Law to play the youthful yet conservative American pontiff. 

Sorrentino broke his habit of speaking about his works-in-progress at the festival’s master class in cinema, first discussing some of his favorite films, including The Night by Michelangelo Antonioni, The Ice Storm by Ang Lee, The Straight Story by David Lynch and The Road to Perdition by Sam Mendes. Referring to the latter, he said more can be learned in the two-minute death scene of Paul Newman’s character than in three years of film school. "It shows you how to write, how to use music, how to make an epic film.... It’s a clear example of what cinema ought to be. It’s truthful and believable.”

Perdition had been shown the night before, with festival director Antonio Monda introducing the work of Jude Law. The Talented Mr. Ripley star had spoken of his love affair with the work of Sorrentino, and the feeling was very much mutual according to the Italian director.  

Sorrentino said Law, an Englishman, was his first choice to play an American pope: “I wanted a young handsome actor to play the part of the pope, and that actor had to be absolutely amazing and he is absolutely that. He, as an actor, is absolutely flawless really. I’ve very rarely seen anyone like him.”

While The Young Pope is a fictionalized, modern, conservative pope, those hoping to see any traces of recent pontiffs will likely be disappointed. “No, that's the point you see, he’s completely invented,” said Sorrentino.

He added: “As far as we know, in recent history there's never been anyone like him. Due to a number of reasons we've never seen a pope like the one we're making a film about. We wanted to make it believable.”

A joint production by Sky, HBO and Canal+, The Young Pope premieres across all three networks next year. Diane Keaton, James Cromwell, Ludivine Sagnier, Cecile de France, Toni Bertorelli, Javier Camara, Silvio Orlando and Scott Shepherd also star.