Jonathan Pryce: I wasn’t particularly flattered by Pope Francis comparisons

Jonathan Pryce has admitted he “wasn’t particularly flattered” when he was compared to Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio when he was announced as the new pope.

Pictures showing the duo side by side circulated on the internet when the Argentine religious leader ascended to the papacy to become Pope Francis.

Now Pryce is playing him in a new Netflix film, The Two Popes, but says he was not thrilled they were compared back in 2013.

He told the PA news agency: “I wasn’t particularly flattered, he’s not what I see in the mirror when I look there.

“But the internet was full of the two images and even to the point where one of my sons called me and said, ‘Daddy, are you the Pope?’

“It went on from there. I would like to think it wasn’t just because I look a bit like him that I got the part, I like to think that 47 years work isn’t wasted.”

While the Welsh star has played a number of real-life characters over his career, including Juan Peron in Evita, he said this role brought new challenges.

He said: “I was nervous, of course you want to present someone (well).

Pope Francis visit to Ireland – Day 2
Pope Francis on a visit to Ireland (Brian Lawless/PA)

“I’ve played a lot of real-life characters but most of them have been dead and they can’t sue me.

“But what’s interesting about him to approach as an actor is he’s a flawed character.

“He’s not this great holier than thou figure, he’s very much a man of the people and he’s very much a man who has a history.

“I knew that side of him, I had read that he wasn’t trusted in Argentina for a while because of his supposed collaboration with the junta, and that is talked about in the film and he gives his reasons in the film.

“But there was a fully rounded character, whether he be a living Pope or not. It was extremely well written and well drawn.”

The film gives him the chance to work with fellow Welsh actor Sir Anthony Hopkins, who plays Pope Benedict, but Pryce said he was nervous to work with the Silence Of The Lambs star.

Pryce with Sir Anthony in The Two Popes (Peter Mountain/Netflix)
Pryce with Sir Anthony in The Two Popes (Peter Mountain/Netflix)

He said: “I held him in high esteem for years and I didn’t know what to expect from him and in retrospect that played well into the relationship in the film.

“He goes there to hand in his resignation and he goes there with some trepidation that he is actually in the presence of the Pope.

“Whether he agrees with Benedict or not, he would revere the position, and I went in to some of the scenes and said afterwards ‘I feel like a teenager, I feel as if I don’t know how to act on camera, I don’t know what I’m doing’, because I was looking at Tony as a consummate (professional) but that also plays well.

“Fernando (Meirelles, the director) says that we are so unalike in our ways of working that it makes for a good relationship.”

The Two Popes is released in UK cinemas on November 29 and will be available on Netflix from December 20.

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