ROME — What does it take for a Hollywood A-lister to get a private audience with Pope Francis? Apparently six kids and the right movie.
Or so it would seem since Angelina Jolie was able to seemingly glide into the Vatican on Thursday to present her new film Unbroken and meet the popular pontiff. The film is based on the real life story of Olympic track star turned bomber pilot Louis Zamperini, who spent 47 days on a raft in the Pacific Ocean after his B-24 went down during World War II. He was later captured by the Japanese. Zamperini’s real-life son Luke and two of Jolie’s daughters were present for the screening.
Francis didn’t actually see the film, but it was screened in the Vatican’s Casina Pio IV palace, which houses the important Pontifical Academy of the Sciences and Social Sciences. It was seen by a small delegation of star-struck prelates and dignitaries who later described the film as “moving.”
After the screening, Jolie, who says she renewed her faith in “the divine” during filming, met briefly with the pope. Jolie said in a statement, “Being invited with my film to the Vatican is an honor and a great tribute to the story that I have told in Unbroken. The story of the hero Louis a great example of strength and forgiveness.”
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, said the film shows, “positive human and spiritual values, in particular forgiveness” and that the meeting between the pope and pop culture icon, “lasted just a few minutes, even though it was naturally very significant for those present.”
Even though the pope did not see the film personally, the Vatican’s seeming endorsement is a gold star many have tried to obtain but few have achieved. In December 2103, Russell Crowe took to tweet stalking the pope to try to get him to see his epic Noah including tweets like: “#Noah film Screening? The message of the film is powerful, fascinating, resonant.” He then apologized: “Dear Holy Father @pontifex, Sorry that I have caused havoc in your social media world. Seriously though, #Noah the movie will fascinate you.”
The Vatican did not screen Noah, and while Crowe’s people say he briefly met with the pope after his usual Wednesday audience in St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican has never confirmed such a meeting and no photos of such an event have been published to date.
Equally unlucky with regard to trying to bring a film to the Vatican was British actor Steve Coogan who co-wrote and starred in the emotional real-life film Philomena, which chronicled the true story of Philomena Lee, who spent her life searching for her son who was sold by Irish Catholic nuns to America. Lee and Coogan did briefly meet with the pope, with pictures to prove it, but no one at the Vatican officially screened the film. At the time, Vatican spokesman Father Lombardi said the pope wasn’t a film buff. “The Holy Father does not see films, and will not be seeing this one,” he said. “It is also important to avoid using the pope as part of a marketing strategy.”