This particular 180 minute film/miniseries version of the life of Pope John Paul II (played by Cary Elwes in his younger years and then by Jon Voight) was released on DVD only yesterday and it is a lavish production. It aired on CBS in 2005 (along with two other versions) and of the three, I like it the most.
The reason for this has nothing to do with the actual mini-series, but with Jon Voight whom I was privileged to meet at the press junket for Glory Road last year (he played Kentucky basketball coach Adolph Rupp). As Mr. Voight entered the room, and before he even sat down, a radio journalist who was present (I think he was from Relevant Radio), asked him, “What was it like to play Pope John Paul II?” Voight, obviously moved, stood there for 6-7 minutes and told us his deepest feelings about the experience and was visibly moved. I wish I had a video of what he said, and how he looked, telling us. At the end, he spotted me, smiled, and said, “I was raised Catholic you know…” He was inspired by playing the role, he inspired us in that room, and his portrayal of the Pope is just as convincing.
The film (mini-series; 180 minutes) begins with the attempt on the Pope’s life in May, 1981, in St. Peter’s Square, and from there flashes back and forward. It was filmed on location in Poland, Rome, and the Vatican – with the Vatican’s cooperation. I think Jon Voight especially, and Cary Elwes (Ben Gazara, James Cromwell, and Christopher Lee as well), were credible; they seem to have a sense of reverence for the roles they played and for Voight, awe. With makeup, and later the Pope’s shaking hands, the physical resemblance is strong.
Voight was nominated for an Emmy for this role and the film was nominated for a Young Artist Award for “Best Family Television Movie or Special.”
Here are links to “Behind the Scenes with Jon Voight”:
Tags: Pope John Paul II DVD