Netflix explored complex relationships and gave a nod to the 1970s at Deadline’s Contenders New York on Saturday with a look at The Two Popes, Marriage Story and Dolomite is My Name.
Actor Jonathan Pryce said he so resembles Pope Francis, “That the day he was named Pope, the Internet was full of images of Pope Francis and me, and Pope Francis and the High Sparrow. My son even called to ask, ‘Dad, are you the Pope?’” (Pryce was referring to his role as the morally bankrupt cult leader in Game of Thrones.)
The Two Popes imagines what might have been said behind closed doors during encounters between liberal Cardinal Bergoglio, the soon-to-be, and current, Pope Francis, and conservative Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) before he abdicated from the papacy. It was the first time in 700 years that there were two popes living at the same time.
“They met a couple of times. We don’t know what transpired in those meetings. It is speculation. But it is responsible speculation based on research,” said writer Anthony McCarten. He emphasized the magnitude of the changeover. “It’s like if Donald Trump said, ’I will give my job to Elizabeth Warren.’ It’s unthinkable that could happen. But it did happen in this 2,000-year-old organization.”
In Marriage Story, another ancient institution is in the spotlight. Laura Dern, who plays hard-charging divorce attorney Nora Fanshaw, said a standout monologue writer/director Noah Baumbach sent her to review “was the greatest Christmas present I have ever gotten.”
It’s a tirade on the double standards for mothers and fathers that Fanshaw delivers to Nicole (Scarlett Johannson), who is in the mist of a searing divorce from Charlie (Adam Driver). “I said, ‘Can I add one little thought on the end?’ Which is, ‘God didn’t even do the f-cking’ — because he didn’t.”
She called the film “oddly hopeful.” Love stories don’t die, she said. “They just take another form.”
Dolomite Is My Name writer Scott Alexander said he and fellow scribe Larry Karaszewski had fallen hard years earlier for Rudy Ray Moore, a comedy and rap pioneer whose kung-fu fighting alter ego Dolemite became a 1970s Blaxploitation sensation in a film by the same name. Another Moore fan, Eddie Murphy reached out to them in 2000 to team up. “But we couldn’t sell the project, even with Eddie.” Scott said.
Then came a pitch meeting with Netflix.
“You are Willy Loman trying to sell something. And [Netflix content chief] Ted Sarandos says, “Guys, I ran video stores in the 80s. Rudy kept us in business.”
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