Indie Helmer on Pope Francis' Acting Debut: "He Was the One Directing Me"

Pope Francis delivers his traditional 'Urbi et Orbi' Blessing - April 1, 2018 -Getty-H 2018
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On the IMDb page for faith-based indie Beyond the Sun, out May 15, one actor really stands out.

Pope Francis makes his feature acting debut in film from writer and co-director Graciela Rodriguez Gilio, a psychiatrist, who knew the pope from her time working with him and victims of abuse in their native Argentina. "It was easy for me to ask because I knew him from before he was the Pope," Rodriguez Gilio tells THR of securing the papal cameo. 

The scene, which runs approximately six minutes, sees the pope sharing the teachings of Jesus with a group of children. The dialogue completely improvised by the Holy Father and was and shot in only a half-hour's time at the Vatican.

"He is used to having cameras in front of him now. He would advise [the crew] and be like, 'The light is better this way,' " recalls Rodriguez Gilio, adding that Francis showed up to set with rosaries as gifts for the crew.

Beyond the Sun, which follows a group of children who run away from home to search for Jesus, has since screened at the Vatican, in the same venue that Martin Scorsese's 2016 film Silence screened. The filmmaker says Francis gave his holy approval: "He smiled and laughed, and that was really nice for me." 

Of the obvious pressures of directing the Pope, Rodriguez Gilio says with a laugh: "I didn't direct him. He was the one directing me."

Watch the trailer for Beyond the Sun below.

A version of this story first appeared in the May 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.