Spiritual guidance for anyone seeking a path to God. explorefaith.org


Explore God's Love Explore Your Faith Explore the Church Explore Who We Are  

  Home > In the News

In the News

Join our mailing list
Join our mailing list
Send this page to a friend

Support explorefaith.org

Give us your feedback


Behind Closed Doors and Sealed Windows--an unexpected look at the election of the Pope

More stories
In the News

Questions of Faith and Doubt

Featured Themes and Authors


Signpost: Daily Devotions

Oasis: Take a Moment to Meditate

Send a card from explorefaith.org

November 1, 2005

I’m Not a Pope, But I Play One on TV
by Jon M. Sweeney

Bing Crosby, Salvador Dali and Lawrence Welk. Mick Jagger, J.R.R. Tolkein and Christina Aguilera. Galileo and Francis of Assisi. Rene Descartes, Jackie Kennedy-Onassis, and Catherine of Aragon. Sonny Bono, Nomar Garciaparra and Pele—remember him? What do they all have in common?

Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy, and John Roberts, Jr.—all members of the U.S. Supreme Court. (Harriet Miers, President Bush’s former nominee for the high court, was born one, but apparently was “born again” in 1979.)

What do they all share, to some degree? They are all Catholic.

And now, the most popular and important Catholic of the last half century—Pope John Paul II—is to become the subject of a CBS television mini-series. He will, in fact, be played by a Catholic.

There seem to be a disproportionately high number of Catholic actors, both past and present. Nick Nolte, Susan Sarandon, Mel Gibson, Faye Dunaway, Martin Sheen, Liam Neeson, Sean Penn, John Wayne (he converted), Dylan McDermott, Rosie O'Donnell, Bill Murray, Robert DeNiro, Jim Carrey, Joe Pesci, Grace Kelly, Carroll O’Connor, Pierce Brosnan, Nicholas Cage, and Ben Affleck, just to name a few. Tom Cruise and John Travolta were both raised Catholic and are now, you know, Scientologist. Tom Hanks was raised Catholic and is now Greek Orthodox.

It wouldn’t be necessary to have a Catholic play the most popular pope in recent memory, or perhaps in history, but it helps. Who has the honor? Jon Voight, of Deliverance and Midnight Cowboy fame. Kids will know him from Holes (2003).

Voight brings his skill for character acting to the role of John Paul II in the aptly titled, John Paul II. Did you see Voight as sports broadcaster Howard Cosell in Ali a few years ago? He was nominated for an Academy Award for that brief role, and as the Pope he is reportedly just as dead-on.

According to some accounts, Voight has taken to practicing his rosaries, making signs of the cross, and hand-gesturing blessings to cast and crew, in his immersion into the role as pontiff. At 6’4” tall, he will appear rather robust as the aging pontiff, but he also has been seen hunching over quite a bit in rehearsals, as John Paul was, due to his suffering from Parkinson’s.

Voight portrays John Paul beginning with his election as pope in 1978. The pre-pope actor, priest, and archbishop Karol Wojtyla is played by 42-year-old British actor, Cary Elwes, who is best-known as the handsome blond from The Princess Bride.

The miniseries will be aired in two parts on December 4 (Sunday) and 7 (Wednesday).

In a couple of weeks, the cast will attend a special Vatican screening of the complete miniseries for none other than Pope Benedict XVI. I’m picking Martin Sheen to play him one day.

© 2005 Jon M. Sweeney.

—Jon M. Sweeney is a writer and editor living in Vermont. He is the author of several books, including THE LURE OF SAINTS: A PROTESTANT EXPERIENCE OF CATHOLIC TRADITION.

More by Jon Sweeney.

(Return to Top)



Send this article to a friend.

Copyright ©1999-2007 explorefaith.org