Jude Law Was Involved In The Young Pope's 'Evolution' From Day One

If we had to rank his best performances, Jude Law's turn as the titular character in HBO's "The Young Pope" quickly rises to the top. His filmography speaks for itself, but it is hard to compare to the work he puts into bringing the fictional priest to life. It's not that shocking, either. "The Young Pope," and its sequel series, "The New Pope," were both created by Paolo Sorrentino. The Academy Award-winning director worked closely with Law to develop Lenny Belardo aka Pius XIII as a layered, heavily flawed religious leader. His disdain for a modernized church and obsession with unbridled fanaticism becomes a vessel to tell a personal story that eventually transforms the character for the greater good.

Across the first season and its sequel, Pius XIII slowly but surely understands his place in the church and the grander scheme of the religion. His ultra-conservative approach to the papacy has the opposite effect by the end of the series. However, that evolution requires close attention to character development, from its inception to its timely end. On top of being his best performance to date, Law was intrinsically involved with the creation of Pius XIII since the earliest days of "The Young Pope."

'One of the best work experiences I've had'

Back in 2017, Deadline spoke to Law about "The Young Pope," revealing he was instantly convinced of the project upon learning of Sorrentino's involvement and reading a brief two-page treatment. Law then talked to the filmmaker about it, solidifying his commitment soon after. And by the time the scripts were written, it became evident to Law that Pius XIII had all the traits of a compelling character:

"As you rightly pointed out, what became apparent was this great character. Lenny unfolded as this extraordinary, contradictory, deeply knotted and complex human, with an incredible backstory, but also a present life that required all sorts of understanding. Being a part of the evolution of it was truly one of the best work experiences I've had."

It's tough to encapsulate that journey in a few sentences, but it was clear that "The Young Pope" had a lot lined up for its lead since the start. That evolution carried over to "The New Pope" as well.

A Wise(r) Pope

The tragic backstory of Pius XIII is telling of his present actions to seek idolatry and emphasize conservative ideas in the church. At a young age, he was abandoned by his parents and raised by a nun, Sister Mary (Diane Keaton), in an orphanage. The entirety of his perspective in life is mostly due to his upbringing, which brought him pain he could never really let go. This frustration translated into an ideology that tried to turn back the progress made in the church. And yet, his contradictory nature led to a newfound sense of wisdom that prioritized providing comfort over terrorizing others.

By the end of "The Young Pope," Pius XIII sought to use his power for good. His random bouts of miracle work snowballed into him realizing that his purpose is less centered on his own personal trauma than on the effect he can have on others. In "The New Pope," Pius XIII recognized that any blind fanaticism (especially coming from his own devout followers) should not be the ultimate goal of his papacy. His final embrace with the public is a testament to his personal development, set up since the very first episode of the series.

"The Young Pope," and its sequel, "The New Pope," are available to stream on HBO Max.