Jon Voight on John Paul

The actor discusses what it's like to portray one of the most beloved--and most recorded--figures in recent history.

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You said you learned personal anecdotes about John Paul that had not been written in news accounts. Can you give some examples?

I can give you a funny one. When he ate, he sometimes didn't know what he was eating. He ate what was put in front of him. His concentration was so fierce; he was always so busy, he seldom paid much attention to what he was eating.

There's a scene [in the miniseries] where he's eating and making a point to [Cardinal] Casaroli, and he knocks a piece of cheese on the floor. He continues the conversation as he goes looking for the cheese.

He's reaching down on the floor while he's talking.

Right. He's searching for it, you see the top of his head and his eye come up, but he's having a very important conversation. Then he grabs it, he puts the cheese back on his plate. The servant is appalled and tries to retrieve the cheese and put it in his pocket before the pope eats the cheese.

It's a cute insight. There were many jokes told about that. Even when he was talking to little children, they'd ask him, "Do you like spinach?" He said, "If they give it to me, I eat it."

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There's a funny scene earlier in the miniseries-when Cary Elwes plays the young Karol Wojtyla-where he addresses a potato as Yorick's skull from Hamlet. Was that also taken from real life?

Jon Voight on
the Pope as an actor
He was an actor. And from my assessment of his behavior in public, I would say he would be a very good actor, a fine actor, not an amateur in any way. You never caught him doing anything inauthentic, or using false emotion or theatrics, ever. So that means he was on another level. In his work, he would have demanded an authenticity and a simplicity, which all the great ones have.

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