Oscar nominee Jonathan Pryce says the Vatican and Pope Francis' family have been pleased with the Netflix movie

By Samantha Miller
January 16, 2020 03:00 PM
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Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins both earned Oscar nominations this week for their acclaimed Netflix movie The Two Popes — but what do the two popes themselves think?

Neither Pope Francis nor the retired Pope Benedict XVI has officially reacted to the film. But Pryce, who plays Pope Francis in the Netflix film, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue Vatican officials reacted warmly to the movie and requested a DVD for the current pontiff.

“We had a screening in Rome about three or four weeks ago now to which members of the Vatican were invited,” says Pryce. “We spoke to a group of priests and a bishop and a cardinal afterward, and they had all liked the film. There was a particular cardinal who is close to Benedict and to Francis who wanted to take a DVD to show to Francis because he felt he would enjoy it.”

The movie focuses on the relationship between Francis, then known as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, and Benedict (Hopkins) leading up to Benedict’s surprising 2013 decision to resign as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

“There’s also been messages coming through from Francis’ family back in Argentina that they liked the film and they liked what we’d done with their uncle, which is very nice to hear,” says Pryce.

Anthony Hopkins, left, and Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes.
| Credit: Netflix

Known for movies such as Brazil and Evita and his recent turn as the High Sparrow in Game of Thrones, the veteran actor, 72, was raised Presbyterian in Wales but felt a connection to Francis. “This Pope was the first one that I felt was speaking to me and speaking to millions like me. What he was saying, not necessarily about the church, but about society in general and about the climate crisis, the economic crisis, the refugee crisis, he was talking about all these issues that meant so much to me that I felt great empathy towards him. So, to get the chance to play him, it was a bit of a blessing.”

A first-time Oscar nominee, Pryce had to learn to speak Spanish — with an Argentinian accent — and Italian for the role. But looking like Francis wasn’t a problem. “It seems like I’ve been preparing to play him all my life,” he jokes. “Either he looks like me or I look like him, I don’t know which.”

Jonathan Pryce with wife Kate Fahy at the Golden Globes.
| Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty

Pryce didn’t know Hopkins, 82, well before the movie, though they’re both Welsh and trained at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. “He’s a bit of a hero of mine,” Pryce says. “I think the relationship you see onscreen between Francis and Benedict, how that grows from being quite wary of each other and sniffing around each other like two dogs, it was a bit like that with me and Tony. As you see the two popes becoming great friends, so Tony and I became great friends.”

In the movie, Francis even shows Benedict a few dance moves. “That scene of the two of them tangoing together is how I feel about Tony,” says Pryce. “We haven’t tangoed together in life yet. Not yet, maybe we will.”

The Two Popes is now streaming on Netflix.