"POPE JOHN PAUL II," A NEW FOUR-HOUR MINI-SERIES EVENT STARRING ACADEMY AWARD WINNER JON VOIGHT AND CARY ELWES, TO BE BROADCAST DEC. 4 AND DEC. 7 ON THE CBS TELEVISION NETWORK
Pope Benedict XVI to Attend
A World Premiere Screening of the Mini-Series
on Nov. 17 in the Paolo VI Hall at the Vatican,
Joined By Additional Dignitaries
Academy Award and Emmy Award Nominee James Cromwell,
Emmy Award Winner and Tony Award Nominee Ben Gazzara,
And Christopher Lee also Star
Historians at the Vatican Provided Script Consultation
This Drama Was Shot on Location in the Pope's Homeland and in Italy, and
Exclusive Footage Has Been Filmed on St. Peter's Square,
in the Sistine Chapel and in Surrounding Areas of the Vatican
POPE JOHN PAUL II, a new four-hour mini-series event based on the remarkable life of Pope John Paul II, shot on location in Krakow, Poland and in Italy, will be broadcast Sunday, Dec. 4 and Wednesday, Dec. 7 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT, both nights) on the CBS Television Network. Cary Elwes ("The 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") portrays him during his extraordinary 26-year reign that ended with his death on April 2, 2005.
Pope Benedict XVI will attend a special world premiere screening of POPE JOHN PAUL II on Nov. 17 at the Vatican in the Paolo VI Hall, the site of the pope's weekly general audience. Special guests who are scheduled to attend include Jon Voight, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, who is depicted in the mini-series throughout his nearly 40 years as private secretary to the late pope, and Dr. Joaquin Navarro Valls, who is also portrayed in the drama for his role as Director of the Vatican Press Office since 1984. Pope Benedict XVI, a long-time friend of Pope John Paul II, is briefly depicted in the mini-series during the period in which he was known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, whom Pope John Paul II had appointed to the key position of Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1981.
Historians at the Vatican provided script consultation, and exclusive footage has been filmed for the mini-series on St. Peter's Square, in the Sistine Chapel and in surrounding areas of the Vatican.
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") and Christopher Lee ("Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith," "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring") 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 and 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 story 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 and takes the name John Paul II at the age of 58.
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 lengthy illness and during his last days which he lived with faith, peace and courage.
Gazzara plays Vatican Secretary of State Agostino Casaroli, and Lee portrays Polish Cardinal Wyszynski.
Jon Voight's feature film credits include his Academy Award and Golden Globe Award-winning performance in "Coming Home," and "Runaway Train" and "Midnight Cowboy," both of which also earned him Golden Globe Awards. His additional film credits include "Ali," "Midnight Cowboy," "National Treasure," "Pearl Harbor," "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider," "Mission Impossible," "Varsity Blues," "Enemy of the State," "Anaconda," "The General," "The Odessa File," "Deliverance," "The Rainmaker" and "The Champ." His television credits include the movies "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" and "Uprising," and the mini-series "Jack and The Beanstalk: The Real Story" and "Return to Lonesome Dove," both on the Network. He made his directorial debut on the television movie "The Tin Soldier."
Cary Elwes' feature film credits include "The Princess Bride," "Saw," "Glory," "Days of Thunder," "Ella Enchanted," "Twister," "Hot Shots!" "Robin Hood: Men in Tights," "Dracula," "The Bard's Tale," "Wish You Were Dead," "The Cat's Meow," "Shadow of the Vampire," "Cradle Will Rock," "Kiss the Girls," "The Informant," "Liar Liar," "The Jungle Book," "Another Country" and "Lady Jane." His television credits include the movies "The Riverman," "Uprising," "The Pentagon Wars" and the mini-series "From the Earth to the Moon."
James Cromwell's feature film credits include "L.A. Confidential," "The Green Mile," "Babe," "Space Cowboys," "The Longest Yard," "The Snow Walker," "The Nazi," "Twist of Fate," "Snow Falling on Cedars," "Deep Impact," "Species II," "I, Robot," "Star Trek: First Contact," "Eraser" and "The People vs. Larry Flynt." His television credits include the series "Citizen Baines," on the Network," "Six Feet Under" and "ER," the television movies "Failsafe," also on the Network," "Salem's Lot," "RFK," "The Magnificent Ambersons," "RKO 218" and "A Slight Case of Murder," and the mini-series "Angels in America."
Ben Gazzara's feature film credits include "Dogville," "Blue Moon," "Schubert," "The Thomas Crown Affair," "The Big Lebowski," "Road House," "Ladykiller," "Husbands," "The Killing of a Chinese Bookie," "Opening Night," "Capone" and "Anatomy of a Murder." Among his television credits are starring roles in the series "Run for Your Life" and "Arrest and Trial," a guest-starring role in "Law & Order: SVU" and lead roles in the movies "Hysterical Blindness," for which he won an Emmy Award, "Brian's Song," "An Early Frost," "Fatal Vows: The Alexandra O'Hara Story," "Love, Honor & Obey: The Last Mafia Marriage" and "Lies Before Kisses."
Christopher Lee's feature film credits include "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith," "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones," "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Dracula," "The Curse of Frankenstein," "The Mummy," "The Hound of the Baskervilles," "The Face of Fu Manchu," "The Man with the Golden Gun" and "A Tale of Two Cities." His television credits include the mini-series "Ghost Stories for Christmas" and the movies "In the Beginning," "The Odyssey," "Moses," and "Double Vision."
POPE JOHN PAUL II 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, and TVP (Poland). 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.