From the prize-winning screenwriter of The Theory of Everything and Darkest Hour, The Two Popes is a fascinating, revealing and gripping tale of two very different men whose destinies converge with each other - they both live in the Vatican - and the wider world.
On 28 February 2013, a 600-year-old tradition was shattered: the conservative Pope Benedict XVI made a startling announcement. He would resign. Reeling from the news, the College of Cardinals rushed to Rome to congregate in the Sistine Chapel to pick his successor. Their unlikely choice? Francis, the first non-European pope in 1,200 years, a one time tango club bouncer, a passionate football fan and a man with the common touch.
How did these two men become two of the most powerful people on Earth? What's it like to be the Pope? What does the future hold for the Catholic Church and its 1 billion followers?
The Two Popes is a dual biography that masterfully combines these two popes' lives into one gripping narrative. From Benedict and Francis' experiences of war in their homelands - when they were still Joseph and Jorge - and the sexual abuse scandal that continues to rock the Church to its foundations, to the intrigue and the occasional comedy of life in the Vatican, The Pope glitters with the darker and the lighter details of life inside one of the world's most opaque but significant institutions.
A cracking read . . . With due respect to those talented thesps, they will have to go some to convey all the nuances and contradictions, ambiguities and embarrassments, dark secrets and outright skulduggeries that McCarten crams into his 200-odd pages . . . engrossing (Richard Morrison The Times)
I learned things from the script I didn't know. I just thought, "Can that be right? Were we that perilously close?" And so it just grabbed me.
Provides a compelling look at life and politics in the Vatican today (Vanity Fair, This Winter’s Best Nonfiction Reads)
Anthony McCarten has an astonishing knack of transforming a familiar story into a new tale, and one that is revealing and sometimes challenging. Now he has done so once again with The Pope, a beguiling tale of ecclesiastical plotting and intrigue that resembles a sort of bloodless Borgias. It may be a book about how two men reached the holiest pinnacle of the Roman Catholic Church, but when the clouds of incense clear we are left with an awful lot of sinning. The papacy is supposed to be infallible, but thanks to McCarten's deft lifting of the Vatican's scarlet curtains what we see is the breeding ground for one of the greatest scandals of our times in which conspiracy and vanity are on display to a terrifying extent
[On the play version] Why did he do it? Why did Pope Benedict XVI, that most traditional of pontiffs, break with tradition and resign in 2013, ceding the way to his reformist rival, Cardinal Bergoglio? That's the problem at the heart of this compelling new problem play by Anthony McCarten - and, sensibly, the playwright leaves it more or less unsolved. He presents us with two contrasting and eternal characters, both at breaking point: the wavering conservative and the reluctant liberal. The playwright's own sympathies seem to be with Bergoglio, yet, despite the relatable ordinariness Nicholas Woodeson brings to that role, it is Anton Lesser's shy, candyfloss-haired Benedict who, against the odds, emerges as the more fascinating presence: the one who can play Mozart, however imperfectly, the one who attempts little jokes, far less polished than his rival's hail-fellow shtick, yet more amusing for their faults. McCarten, who wrote the screenplay for Darkest Hour, has a gift for creating intimate dramas from public biographical property. Here the theatre becomes a confessional, with the audience asked to grant absolution to two flawed but pious priests. (The Times)
[On the film screenplay] Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins deliver a sit-back-and-marvel double-act masterclass that will be spoken of in the same breath as De Niro and Pacino in Heat . . . the triple-whammy impact of McCarten's script, Meirelles's direction and, mostly, the two lead performances creates a completely credible reality, at times indecently moving . . . there are big ideas in here too (The Times, *****)
[On the film] Essentially a papal buddy movie, a mesmerising two-hander, and one of the finest films of either performer's career (Kevin Maher The Times)
[On the film screenplay] If I like the script, that's the reason I'm doing it (Jonathan Pryce)
Anthony McCarten . . . after The Theory of Everything, Darkest Hour and Bohemian Rhapsody, has rather cornered the market in glossy biographical dramas (Guardian)
This engrossing double biography of the chalk-and-cheese pontiffs Francis (the "slum bishop") and Benedict ("God's rottweiler") is full of drama, dark secrets and Vatican skulduggery. (The Times)