|Jonathan Pryce (left) and "Pope Francis" character right.|
According to Variety, 69-year-old veteran actor Jonathan Pryce will be taking his "Pope Francis" character to the big screen in a new movie aimed at kids. "Beyond the Sun" is described as a family adventure about the Gospels. It is unclear how Pryce's famous Pope character will be used.
Pryce has achieved worldwide -- if largely anonymous -- celebrity status for his role as "Pope Francis" since 2013, with many mistaking him for the real Pope.
"We thought it would be funny to have a short feature about the election of 'Jorge Bergoglio' after an imaginary conclave," Pryce says over his espresso. Then he laughs. "The thing went viral. All of a sudden you've got people claiming Pope Benedict had resigned, and this nobody from Argentina had been elected Pope!"
Pryce says he got the idea of an Argentine Pope from his role as Juan Peron in the 1996 musical Evita. "I pitched it, and everyone was like, how crazy is that? They loved it."
Pryce explains they thought they might keep up the gag for a day or two at most, but it just went on and on. "We staged press conferences on airplane sets, with actors playing reporters. We said some crazy things. But no matter what we said, people swallowed it! How can you just stop such a phenomenon? In a way, this is historic in its own right."
Eventually, "Pope Francis" blossomed into a massive project featuring extensive CGI effects of the Vatican, and various travels, while actors in make-up played world leaders. When asked about the funding behind the project, Pryce refused to answer. "Let's just say we're not cash-strapped."
Pryce says he hopes to do some good with the hoax by raising awareness of global warming and other social issues. "We really enlisted Leonardo di Caprio to have this supposed meeting with the Pope. It was beautiful. George Clooney is next. We've got actors standing in line for this."
Pryce juggles his iconic Pope Francis role with a busy career that has included the role of High Sparrow in Game of Thrones, and stage performances. Besides many memorable roles in films such as Brazil (1985), and Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), he also received a Tony Award for his role as the Engineer in Miss Saigon.
How long will he keep up the joke?
"Well, if Pope Benedict exposed me, that would end it. But he seems to be a good sport. I think he appreciates it that we've taken the pressure off of him. I don't know. We've got this movie deal now. A syndicated reality television show is in the works, called "Who Am I to Judge?" I'm thinking we have the potential for four or five seasons. Sheen was on TV forever. And he was just an archbishop," Pryce laughs.
When asked if he had any qualms about misleading a billion and a half Roman Catholics, Pryce shook his head. "If they fall for this, it's hard to have much sympathy. Besides, I think our version of Catholicism is better."