Dear God, how does one even begin to rebuild a 536 year old structure like the Sistine Chapel?
For Two Popes filmmaker Fernando Meirelles and his production designer Mark Tildesley, they certainly couldn’t fully paint one, because the film production would’ve wrapped before the set’s completion.
But there was a clever way, and the two, who’ve worked together since Constant Gardener, talk with us today on Crew Call about how they pulled off a pitch-perfect recreation in 7 weeks at Rome’s Cinecitta Studios. Shooting in the Vatican was off limits for the Netflix movie about Pope Francis’ rise and Pope Benedict’s resignation; a narrative production can only shoot the exteriors around St. Peter’s and Vatican City. There were also other high-bar set reproductions such as the Vatican’s map room. The duo also expound on that as well as how they brought Benedict’s summer residence to life.
The Sistine Chapel at the Vatican has a dual function of both religious and papal activity; quite specifically in the movie it’s where the Roman Curia votes for the next Pope (a process we’re given great insight into).
While Renaissance painters Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Pinturicchio, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Cosimo Rosselli, created frescos depicting the Life of Moses and the Life of Christ, which were completed by 1482 with the first mass there held Aug. 15 1483, Michaelangelo was commissioned by Pope Julius II between 1508-1512 to paint the chapel’s famed ceiling including its centerpiece “The Creation of Adam”.
The Two Popes was spearheaded by producer Dan Lin who reached out to Meirelles about four years ago about his interest in a Pope project. The filmmaker was busy directing the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and by the time he freed up, Lin had Anthony McCarten’s script which he adapted form his play. The genius of this Netflix movie comes from the “sermons of both Popes” says Meirelles that McCarten combined to fuse a dialogue between the liberal and conservative Catholic Church leaders. Hot off its fall premieres at Telluride and TIFF, many praised The Two Popes as My Dinner With Andre. However, the movie is so much more than a two-hander of talking grey heads, rather an epic exploration of what defined these world leaders, the weight they carried, and the peace, tolerance and understanding they come to yield in looking beyond each other’s differences.
The pic after a limited theatrical run on Nov. 27 drops on Netflix today. The pic counts four Golden Globe noms including Pryce for Best Actor drama, Anthony Hopkins for Best Supporting Actor, Best Screenplay and Best Drama in addition to two Critics Choice noms for Best Screenplay and Hopkins Best Supporting Actor.
Meirelles blasted onto the global cinema stage with his 2002 Sergio Leone-like Brazilian street kids crime drama City of God. While the pic wasn’t Brazil’s Oscar entry that year, the Miramax release surprised everyone with four Oscar nominations including Best Director for Meirelles (the movie also had a 2002-2005 TV spinoff Sundance series City of Men). Looking back at that overnight success, Meirelles says, “I had no idea, I didn’t know we were competing…it fell in my lap.”
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