Pope Francis, Best Actor? Francis to Star as Himself in Upcoming Film

The pontiff’s involvement in the new Italian feature Beyond the Sun may not be acting, says the Vatican. But it’s still a good show.

Giampiero Sposito / Reuters

ROME — To be, or not to be? That is apparently not the question anyone is going to be hearing Pope Francis deliver any time soon, but Rome is abuzz anyway about news the pontiff will be starring in an upcoming feature film.

Despite adamant denials from the Vatican that the pope’s movie debut, which is to begin shooting in Rome this month, constitutes acting, the mere idea that the silver-haired pontiff could be appearing on the silver screen has people crying, “Oscar!”

“The pope is not an actor,” Monsignor Dario Edoardo Viganò, the new prefect of the Secretariat for Communications, told Vatican Radio, admitting that while video clips of the pope pontificating “could appear in the film,” no scenes would be “filmed for purpose.”

The film, Beyond the Sun, by Rome-based production house AMBI Pictures, sets itself up as an adventure based on Gospel stories, and was apparently guided, to some extent, by the pontiff himself, who said he wanted it directed toward the under-12 set.

“Our excitement and gratitude toward His Holiness, Pope Francis, participating in this film is beyond words,” said Andrea Iervolino, AMBI Pictures’ co-founder. “This is not just a movie for us; it’s a message. And who better to have on your side to deliver an important societal and spiritual message than the pope?”

Iervolino, along with AMBI co-founder Lady Monika Bacardi, will foot the bill for the production and all proceeds will go to the pope’s favorite Argentinean charities: El Alemendro and Los Hogares de Cristo, which help at-risk children in the slums of Buenos Aires. “It is a great honor for Andrea and I to have the opportunity to work with His Holiness, Pope Francis, to spread the awareness of his message, through this film,” Lady Bacardi said. “We will make a movie everyone involved with can be proud of. Not only will families from around globe enjoy this film and be entertained, but they will be moved.”

Even if Francis doesn’t get his own trailer on the set of the film shoot, it would appear that he will have a say in the final production: His close friend, Monsignor Eduardo Garcia, is listed in the credits as Pope Francis’s adviser for the project. (And there’s no word on whether Francis sought any acting advice from Leonardo DiCaprio, whom he met at the Vatican last week, but conventional wisdom leans toward probably not.)

Whatever the pope’s involvement, and even with the unlikelihood that it will earn him an Oscar or a star on Hollywood Boulevard, there is little question that his name attached to Beyond the Sun has already done more for the film than the directors could have ever hoped.