(PLEASE NOTE: Jon Voight replaces the previously announced Ian Holm, who departed the project for personal reasons.)
"POPE JOHN PAUL II" (WORKING TITLE), A NEW FOUR-HOUR MINI-SERIES EVENT STARRING ACADEMY AWARD WINNER JON VOIGHT AND CARY ELWES, HAS STARTED PRODUCTION IN KRAKOW, POLAND, AND WILL LATER FILM IN ROME, ITALY, FOR BROADCAST ON THE CBS TELEVISION NETWORK
Academy Award and Emmy Award Nominee James Cromwell,
Emmy Award Winner and Tony Award Nominee Ben Gazzara,
Golden Globe Award Nominee Franco Nero and Charles Dance
Also Star in This Drama Being Shot on Location in the Pope's Homeland
And Near the Vatican in Rome
Historians at the Vatican Provided Script Consultation, and
Exclusive Footage Has Been Filmed on St. Peter's Square
And Surrounding Areas
POPE JOHN PAUL II (working title), a new four-hour mini-series event based on the remarkable life of Pope John Paul II, has started production in Krakow, Poland, and will later film in Rome, Italy, for broadcast on the CBS Television Network. Cary Elwes ("Princess Bride," "Saw") portrays Karol Wojtyla in his adult years prior to being elected Pope on Oct. 16, 1978, and Academy Award winner and multiple Golden Globe Award winner Jon Voight ("Coming Home," "Runaway Train") plays him during his extraordinary 26-year reign that ended with his death on April 2, 2005.
Historians at the Vatican provided script consultation, and exclusive footage has been filmed for the mini-series on St. Peter's Square and surrounding areas.
Academy Award nominee and Emmy Award nominee James Cromwell ("Babe," "Six Feet Under," "ER"), Emmy Award winner and Tony Award nominee Ben Gazzara ("Hysterical Blindness," "An Early Frost," "Run for Your Life"), Golden Globe Award nominee Franco Nero ("Camelot," "Die Hard 2") and Charles Dance ("Gosford Park," "Alien�") also star in this drama about a man whose papal odyssey encompassed more than 120 countries and earned him the reputation of an international fighter for freedom. It follows Karol Wojtyla's journey from his youth in Poland through his late days on the Chair of St. Peter. It explores the 264th Pope's fascinating life behind the scenes: how he managed to touch the hearts of millions of people and change the face of the church and the world; how he defended the dignity of mankind against all kinds of Totalitarianism -- from Nazism to Communism to consumerism; and who successfully related to people of all ages.
The production begins with flashbacks to the young Karol "Lolek" Wojtyla whose faith and values are initially fostered by his loving, devout parents, who, along with Karol's elder brother, die of natural causes by the time Karol is 20 years old. Despite being on his own at a young age and enduring the effects of the Nazi occupation in Poland, the philosophical Karol remains optimistic that he can and must make a difference. Along with his university friends, Karol initially embraces the world of theater, acting in clandestine plays as a means of retaining his beloved Polish culture in spite of the risks involved. In the midst of the chaos surrounding him as ongoing atrocities are suffered by Polish Jews, academics, religious leaders and others, Karol accepts a calling to become a priest.
Karol's training takes place in an underground seminary run by the Archbishop Sapieha (Cromwell), a defiant force for the people of Krakow under the Nazi occupation who becomes Karol's mentor and involves the young man in the resistance movement. After being ordained a priest by Sapieha, now a Cardinal, Karol completes his graduate studies in Rome and returns to Poland, where he's assigned to become a student chaplain at St. Florian's parish in Krakow. The athletic 28-year-old Fr. Karol Wojtyla immediately bonds with the university students who savor his relaxed approach and join him to kayak to his inspiring Masses in the wilderness away from the watchful eyes of the communist authorities.
When Karol is only 38-years-old, the Holy See appoints him Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow. Continuing to cultivate faith with the people, despite the restrictions imposed by the communist leaders, Karol chooses to hold Mass in an open area in the communists' new Polish church-free city, Nowa Huta. Though he repeatedly enrages the communist authorities, he impresses influential foreign cardinals with his views, his charisma and his knowledge of multiple languages. At 47, Karol is made a cardinal by Pope Paul VI, and, on Oct. 16, 1978, after 455 years of Italian popes, Karol is elected Pope, at age 58, and takes the name John Paul II.
During his extremely active papal years, most of which take place after he survives a 1981 assassination attempt, John Paul II proves to be a less-than-traditional pope. He takes part in international negotiations and presses Soviet leadership to remove obstacles to freedom of religion in the countries under their control. He travels across the globe to promote faith, values, peace, forgiveness, and, especially in regions lacking it, freedom of religion. He asks for forgiveness and brotherhood with the Jewish people and reaches out to the world's Catholic youth. During John Paul II's first pilgrimage to Poland in June 1979, he ushers in an era of hope that motivates the Polish people, and their Solidarity leadership, to eventually bring a hard-fought end to communist rule there. This passion ultimately spreads throughout the rest of the Eastern block as well. Despite health obstacles in later years, John Paul II refuses to curtail his busy schedule. He continues to challenge and inspire millions of people throughout his later life, his lengthy illness and during his last days which he lived with faith, peace and courage.
Gazzara plays Vatican Secretary of State Agostino Casaroli, Dance portrays Austrian Cardinal Franz Konig and Nero plays Jan Tyranowski, an influential lay leader in the clandestine Catholic ministry that sprouted in Krakow during the Nazi occupation.
POPE JOHN PAUL II (working title) is being produced by Matilde and Luca Bernabei for Lux Vide ("Jesus"), Max Gusberti for RAI Fiction, Stephen Davis ("Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story"), Tarak Ben Amar ("The Bible") for Quinta Communications, Chris Grabowski and Slawomir Jozwik for Baltmedia/Projektor. John Kent-Harrison ("The Hallmark Hall of Fame" presentations "What the Deaf Man Heard," "In Love and War," "The Water Is Wide," "William Faulkner's Old Man") is directing.