Anthony McCarten has a big surprise on the very first page of his The Two Popes script: It’s funny.
The film, in which Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) and future Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce) seek a path forward for a threatened Catholic Church, uses light touches to humanize two very different men as they make very heavy decisions about the fate of the faith. The first scene, which we won’t spoil here, is eternally relatable.
“My M.O. vis-a-vis humor is really just to make things lifelike. I try to put the same percentage of humor in a movie that I perceive there is in real life,” McCarten said in the latest MovieMaker Interviews podcast.
To that end, the film includes lighthearted moments involving soccer and unexpected musical cues, alongside tough explorations of the Catholic Church’s sex abuse crisis and a painful period in Argentina’s history.
McCarten wrote the screenplays for films that starred three of the last five Best Actor Oscar winners: Bohemian Rhapsody (Rami Malek), Darkest Hour (Gary Oldman) and The Theory of Everything (Eddie Redmayne). His next project is a Bee Gees biopic with Steven Spielberg.
You can listen on your favorite platform below:
This episode also features an interview with Alan Cumming, who talks about his most celebrated work, how Stanley Kubrick and Eyes Wide Shut made him love acting more, and why you shouldn’t be a DJ who doesn’t dance.
Here are highlights of the episode, with timestamps:
1:15: Alan Cumming interview begins.
4:04: “I’ve chosen to do something waaay outside my comfort zone.”
4:45: A few words about cabaret bar Club Cumming.
5:34: “I think I’ve understood from way way long ago how important fun is as a component in your life… especially when you do things that are very dark. And a lot of my work is very dark.”
7:00: Don’t be the kind of DJ who refuses to dance.
11:00: “I think of myself as a character… I think there’s me, and then there’s Alan Cumming. And Alan Cumming goes out and is like, ‘Hello everybody, hi! Yes, I’m here! That’s right. Thanks so much!”
12:30: Let’s talk about the 20th anniversary of Eyes Wide Shut and what he learned working with Stanley Kubrick.
13:05: “It’s a huge thing in my career, even though it’s like maybe four minutes.”
15:55: “There’s a saying, which is, you can go as big as you like, as you want as long as you mean it.”
17:08: Anthony McCarten interview begins, as he explains how he used humor to humanize Two Popes.
18:40: The Vatican’s response to Two Popes.
19:19: “We built our own Sistine Chapel.”
24:00: “There’s very very little tolerance or listening to the other side. … Sometimes the talking should stop and we should listen a little more.”
31:50: ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”: “I was kind of traumatized by that song.”
37:20: Anthony McCarten talks about his script for Bohemian Rhapsody.
41:00: His advice for screenwriters.
The Two Popes is in theaters now and arrives on Netflix Friday.