“A sense of inadequacy behind all cardinals elected Pope”
by Vittoria Scarpa
21/04/2011 - He kept the press and professionals with bated breath until the very last minute, while everyone wondered if he would speak about his latest film. But ultimately, Nanni Moretti showed up at the press conference following the Rome press screening of We Have a Pope [trailer, film focus], in competition at the 64th Cannes Film Festival, and answered journalists’ questions.
Was it snobbism or a marketing strategy?
Nanni Moretti: The truth is that I was really tired, I needed to rest for a few days. But sometimes some directors create confusion talking about their work – I’m one of those directors. I worked hard on this film, and I hope the results speak for themselves.
What did you feel compelled to say in We Have a Pope?
I wanted to depict a fragile man, Cardinal Melville, who feels in adequate in the face of power and the role he’s called to fill, and I wanted to do it as a comedy. I wanted to show my character, the volleyball tournament, the lack of affection, Melville’s love for the theatre. Initially, the Pope’s sister, an actress, was in the script. Then we had her die, she’s only mentioned. Nevertheless, I think this feeling of inadequacy happens to all cardinals elected Pope, or at least that’s what they say.
How did you meet Michel Piccoli?
I asked him to audition six scenes in Italian and he accepted. I went to Paris, August 14, 2009, we worked on the scenes and immediately afterwards I told him I would be happy if he would be in my film. I knew Piccoli was good, but it was when I saw the film in the screening room, the entire edit, that I realized how much, with his silences, his expressions and his walk, he gave to the character.
How did you choose the name Melville?
A few years ago I directed an edition of the Turin Film Festival during which there was a retrospective on French director [Jean-Pierre] Melville. When co-screenwriters Federica Pontremoli and Francesco Piccolo and I were searching for the characters’ names, we thought of Melville. We got attached to it, so it stuck.
Is there some of Moretti in the Pope?
There is something of me in both the character I play, the psychoanalyst, and the Pope. I have to add though that I never thought, not even for a moment, of playing the Pope, even though everyone who heard I was making a film about a depressed Pope said: "He’ll play the lead!" But we needed someone entirely different, another character, another age.
Did you plan on showing the cardinals in such an affectionate and human light from the very beginning?
While writing we started to really like some of the cardinals: the competitive one, the favourite, the proto-deacon who takes really strong tranquillizers. There are also various non-professional actors. The Chilean cardinal, one of the ones who plays cards, was actually an extra, he had another job. On the set, in scene after scene, I realized who were the non-actors I could use to turn into characters.
I’d also like to emphasise that a few years ago, for numerous weeks, the newspapers spoke about the scandals that involved the Church. Both while we were writing and when I was shooting I preferred to not let myself be overwhelmed by these facts. Those who wanted to know them, knew them. My film is something else.