Jude Law stars in HBO’s ‘Young Pope’

NEW YORK — In HBO’s absorbing new drama “The Young Pope,” Jude Law plays the title character, American-born Lenny Belardo, who, through divine intervention or woeful human error (this will be hotly debated), is made Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church at the tender age of 47.

A disruptive, puzzling presence who describes himself as “intransigent, irritable and vindictive,” Pope Pius XIII from the start of his papacy is at cross-purposes with the Vatican’s appalled establishment. Swiftly, efforts by the College of Cardinals to bring him down catch fire.

The 10-episode series also stars Diane Keaton and James Cromwell among its international roster.

“The Young Pope” was created, directed and written by Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino. Last week, he and Law talked about their bold collaboration, which premieres today at 9 p.m.

Here are some highlights from that conversation (with assistance from Sorrentino’s translator):

SORRENTINO: The idea for ‘The Young Pope’ really stems from my high school years with Catholic priests as teachers. I was able to observe the solitude of those priests, and how much their lives were structured. And also how their universe marginalized the feminine aspect in the service of the masculine.

But although the film is incidentally about the Catholic Church, it’s also about a wider circle, which is the issue of faith — the question of believing or non-believing — which sooner or later affects us all.

LAW: At the core of our series is its humanity. We penetrate the layers of curiosity and intrigue surrounding the very human institution of the Catholic Church, and explore how people interact within it.

SORRENTINO: The most challenging part of making a film is the writing. I started writing this when I was finishing my previous film, ‘Youth’ (2015).

With a fully realized script in hand, Sorrentino and his actors could tackle “The Young Pope” as a single 10-hour movie more than as 10 separate episodes. But that didn’t make the project’s magnitude any less daunting.

LAW: I underestimated how hard-wired I was to playing a part for a two-hour period. Keeping the arc of your character’s journey as subtle and measured as possible, and also sustaining the necessary level of intensity, was quite a challenge over 10 hours.

SORRENTINO: When you make a movie, often you have the feeling that the result is due to luck or enthusiasm. But in this case, you needed a lot more than enthusiasm — you needed dedication.

Online: http://www.hbo.com/the-young-pope