The spectacle of "The Young Pope”

Jan 23, 2017 845

By Tad Friend

"If you don't mind smoke, you can sit here," Paolo Sorrentino said, indicating the seat beside him. "If you do"—he pointed to a distant couch. Sorrentino, the Italian writer-director of the new HBO series "The Young Pope," was ashing his Toscanello cigar out a window in the living room of his pied-à-terre, sixty-eight floors above Manhattan. A blueberry-scented candle flickered. Beneath his nest of graying hair and his Roman nose, Sorrentino's smile was melancholy. "I smoked cigarettes for twenty years, two box a day," he went on. "I love smoke, but seven years ago I change to cigars so I don't . . ." He sucked in.

"Inhale," suggested Sorrentino's translator, Michael Moore, a partly bald man with a worried face. "Inhale, yes," Sorrentino said, pluming white smoke. In the show, both Lenny Belardo, an American cardinal newly installed as Pope Pius XIII (Jude Law), and his surrogate mother, Sister Mary (Diane Keaton), smoke constantly. Sorrentino said that in his research he'd turned up rumors that Pope Benedict XVI, who stepped down in 2013, "used to smoke, but not in public.

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