Fernando Meirelles Interview: ‘The Two Popes’ director
In tackling “The Two Popes,” Fernando Meirelles was excited by the challenge of directing a film that consisted largely of conversations between two holy men. “The dialogue was very nice when I read it,” he recalls of Anthony McCarten‘s script, adapted from his own stage play. But he soon realized that a movie with “two guys talking” about “religion and the church” was in danger of being “very boring.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Meirelles above.
The Netflix release is about the transition of power between the conservative Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) and the more liberal Pope Francis I (Jonathan Pryce). During many intense conversations the two men try to forge an alliance to benefit the Catholic Church into the future. But for Meirelles, the question was “how to make this cinematic, interesting and even entertaining.”
He decided “to make it very intimate. I told myself, instead of making the film about a pope talking to a cardinal, I wanted to make a film about two men who disagree on everything trying to find common ground. Very personal, very intimate. The camera is very close to them. There’s a lot of jokes.” In humanizing the two pontiffs, “you really understand who’s behind that white cassock.”
Although it’s specifically focused on the Catholic Church, Meirelles believes the film’s message has universal appeal, especially today. “Tolerance is a commodity that we’re missing,” he explains. So he admires Pope Francis for attempting to “put down the walls and build bridges between nations, religions and societies.”
Meirelles earned an Oscar nomination for Best Director for his international breakthrough “City of God” (2002), which also earned bids for writing, editing and cinematography a year after the Brazilian film was rejected in the academy’s Best Foreign Film category (though it did receive Foreign Film bids at the Golden Globes and BAFTAs). He also earned Globe and BAFTA bids for directing his English-language debut “The Constant Gardener” (2005). Additionally, he competed for the Palme d’Or for “Blindness” (2008).