The “High Sparrow” takes on the role of Pope Francis


A New Zealand-born novelist, filmmaker and playwright Anthony McCartin has written a play examining the unusual situation in which there are two living Popes.

In a soon-to-be-made Netflix movie version of the play, Jonathan Pryce, who played the role of the High Sparrow in season 6 of The Game of Thrones, will play the part of Pope Francis.

The movie tells the story of Pope Benedict’s election and his subsequent resignation from the papacy which opened the door for Jorge Mario Bergoglio to be elected Pope.

The drama conveys Bergoglio’s reluctance to take the papacy in 2013. It shows his humility and devotion to the poor, and how he has become a galvanising force for tolerance and change.

McCarten was born and raised in New Plymouth, and attended Francis Douglas Memorial College.

He worked as a reporter on The Taranaki Herald, did an Arts degree at Massey University then at Victoria University where he studied creative writing with Bill Manhire.

While on holiday in Rome, McCarten was in St Peter’s Square when Pope Francis was speaking to the public, his face up on the screen.

“I became aware that not too far behind him, in a small convent, there is another living pope, Pope Benedict, and I thought, ‘how unusual is it to have two living popes’,” McCarten said.

“These two popes couldn’t be more unlike one another: one is sort of a closed-off intellectual and Francis a man of the people. In terms of their basic theology, they’re almost polar opposites as well, so I could just imagine a cardinal and a pope having a sort of papal smackdown on stage.”

McCarten, who wrote the five-time Oscar-nominated movie The Theory of Everything (about Stephen Hawking), will also write the script for the upcoming film Darkest Hour (about Winston Churchill).


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