Former "cowboy gigolo" plays John Paul II

Now better known as Angelina Jolie's dad, actor Jon Voight, who first rose to fame for his role as a young gigolo in the 1960s hit movie "Midnight Cowboy", stars as Pope John Paul II in a TV mini-series of the same name now available on DVD.

Voight told journalists on Monday of his fondness for the late Polish-born pontiff, stressing first and foremost a desire to portray honestly a life that inspired many, Zee News reports.

"Pope John Paul II was good for the world in many ways, but one of the ways he was good for the world was he was a religious figure who had 'moral gravitas' that was respected across all borders.

"Not only that, but he reached out to people of all faiths with words of love, with words of respect and with prayers," said Voight.

The actor travelled to Poland and the Vatican in his research on the beloved pontiff, learning firsthand how the atrocities of Nazi occupation in Poland that helped shape the young Karol Wojtyla's life.

Jon Voight is no stranger to controversy. His breakthrough film "Midnight Cowboy" became the first X-rated movie to win an Oscar for best picture.

He also won a Best Actor Academy Award for his role as a disabled war veteran, Luke Martin in the film, "Coming Home," which was seen as a groundbreaking commentary on the post-Vietnam War era, famously co-starring Jane Fonda as his love interest.

The $20 million production of "Pope John Paul II", which is now being distributed by Ignatius Press, was shot on location in Rome and Poland in close connection with the Vatican. Voight was nominated for a 2006 Emmy Award for his performance in the film.

Upon seeing the film, Pope Benedict XVI said, "Watching this film has renewed in me a sense of profound gratitude to God for having given the Church and the world a Pope of such an exalted human and spiritual nature."

He then blessed the film - "the ultimate endorsement", according to Catholic News Service (CNS).

CNS film reviewer Harry Forbes said, "Voight is quite extraordinary. Besides doing a spot-on impersonation of Pope John Paul II's public persona, he ages most convincingly ... It's a heart-wrenching portrayal."

"Voight stands out ... he closely mirrors our image of the pope as a person: that mix of majesty and humility, humor and steel," USA Today says.

Voight has fond memories of "Pope John Paul II" (ZeeNews, 18/10/06)
Ignatius Press distributes Pope John Paul II film (Spero News, 16/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
The official site John Paul II movie website
Pope John Paul II Video (Ignatius Press)
Ignatius Press
Jon Voight (Internet Movie Database)
Jon Voight (Wikipedia)

20 Oct 2006