Jonathan Pryce Urges 'The Two Popes' Viewers to "Show Compassion"

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Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce

The actor also explained how the sitting Pope informed his work as the High Sparrow on 'Game of Thrones.'

Jonathan Pryce never thought he resembled Pope Francis until an Internet meme surfaced comparing the likeness. But in addition to sharing the sitting monsignor’s physical attributes, the actor known for his work on Game of Thrones said that the Pope’s politics is what attracted him to the role.

“I feel very empathetic to his politics and what he can do as an influential figure and what he can do for the church but society at large,” Pryce told The Hollywood Reporter at the TCL Chinese Theatre red carpet Monday at AFI Fest.

In Fernando Meirelles film, Pryce stars alongside Anthony Hopkins to depict conversations between Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation from the papacy and Pope Francis' ascension to the Vatican church. The Two Popes brings private moments of bonding and dispute between the two church figures to the big screen.

Though the Netflix film, written by Anthony McCarten, is Pryce’s first time playing the sitting Pope, the actor said he’s incorporated the holy figure into his work before. In Game of Thrones, Pryce played the High Sparrow, the religious leader of the Seven Kingdoms gone corrupt in the show’s sixth season.

“I said that I see him as Pope Francis, he was a man, he’s working for the poor, washing their feet, feeding them, housing them and he was a force for change in that society,” he told THR. “Of course I hadn’t read season six yet, and I hope the pope’s story doesn’t continue down that way where he became a despotic monster.”

On acting alongside co-star Anthony Hopkins, Pryce said that they share a mutual respect for each other. Pryce met Hopkins nearly 30 years ago but never worked onscreen with him.

The film, which Pryce describes as "two old men talking for almost two hours," however, could have been drastically different depending on the two personalities playing the religious officials. 

"As you see our relationship grow over the course of the film, it was reflected in real life," he said. "Our friendship grew at the same time as Benedict and Francis'."

The actor said that though the film deals with the transitions of power in one of the most followed religious institutions in the world, viewers don’t have to watch The Two Popes as solely a “dry study of the papacy or the Vatican.” He said that audiences can let their guard down to appreciate the larger, albeit religious, message conveyed and leave the theater better people than when they entered.

“Love your fellow man and show compassion, be understanding,” Pryce said in an almost papal manner. “Be able to debate and talk about issues.”