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Anthony Hopkins' Pope Benedict gets a lush touch of Welsh accent

Netflix's latest blockbuster The Two Popes
Netflix's latest blockbuster The Two Popes Credit: Peter Mountain/Netflix

Many actors have been forced to apologise for getting regional accents wrong on screen, most notably Dick Van Dyke who admitted his cockney for Mary Poppins was 'the most atrocious in the history of cinema.'

But Sir Anthony Hopkins may be forgiven for his half Welsh, half German accent when playing Pope Benedict XVI in Netflix's latest blockbuster The Two Popes. 

Writer Anthony McCarten has told The Telegraph he arrived on set to hear a "German version of Welsh" as the Brazilian director had failed to pick up the actor's twang.

"I remember being there and that’s when I first saw Tony [Anthony Hopkins] performing as Pope Benedict," McCarten said.

“I watched the monitor as he did a scene and I went over to the director and said 'that’s an interesting decision you made to not have Tony use a German accent' and Fernando [Meirelles] who is South American said: 'Isn’t he'?

“I said: 'No, I think it’s Welsh'. 

“He said: ‘Oh, we have a specialist accent coach. We must discuss that'. "

The New Zealand native added of the final cut: “I think it’s a German version of Welsh that we hear in the film - a mixture - and I think it was a smart choice.” 

Both Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce who plays Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio the future Pope Francis are Welsh and according to McCarten are both “claimants to the title of world's greatest Welsh actor”. 

he film will have a three-week release in cinemas meaning it will qualify for BAFTA’s Credit: Peter Mountain/Netflix

The Two Popes takes place in the lead up to the German Pope Benedict’s resignation on February 28, 2013 and is an imagining of the conversations had between him and the Argentinian Bergoglio. 

Initially a play, McCarten’s accumulation of research for that and the subsequent film adaptation is also being published as a dual biography of the Popes and will be published ahead of the cinematic release on the 7 November 2019.  

The 58-year-old who was raised Catholic, was initially inspired by a visit to St Peter’s Square in Rome four years ago, when as “fate should have it Francis was holding an open air mass”. 

He admitted that Pope Francis’ “superstar appeal and charisma” made him wonder about the last time the world had had two Popes. The answer was Gregory XII in 1415.

The Two Popes takes place in the lead up to the German Pope Benedict’s resignation on February 28, 2013 Credit: Peter Mountain/Netflix

He said he was always adamant that Hopkins and Pryce would play the ambitious roles. 

When pitching to Netflix alongside producers Dan Lin and Jonathan Eirich they carried two photographs of the actors. 

“Neither of the men knew that we were presenting them as our cast but they were certainly our first preference,” he said. 

“At the end of the meeting the Netflix people having said that they would make the show asked us if we had secured the actors and we said oh it shouldn’t be a problem.” 

The Two Popes was a play first Credit: Peter Mountain/Netflix 

The allure of Netflix did not disappoint. The film will have a three-week release in cinemas meaning it will qualify for BAFTA’s before being released on UK cinematic release November 29 2019 then available on Netflix December 20, 2019. 

McCarten, whose repertoire includes Bohemian Rhapsody, The Theory of Everything and Darkest Hour, said he has a “bias toward the normal big screen experience” but Netflix with its “lack of red tape” and the business of being “resourced sufficiently” is “highly seductive”. 

When McCarten put the question to the production company of how much money would they give us, their response was “whatever it takes”. 

The production has not shied away from its promise, building an entire replica of the Sistine Chapel but, as a joke among designers, making it five inches bigger than the original. 

The film is released to UK cinemas on November 29 Credit: Peter Mountain/Netflix 

The BAFTA-winning writer said: “The wonderful thing about Netflix is you get enough money to do things like build a Sistine Chapel.

“It’s actually five inches bigger than the real Sistine Chapel. 

“I think it was a joke among the designers that they wanted the world record for the biggest Sistine Chapel”. 

The bestselling author admits that of his previous subjects, his best confidence building review came from Stephen Hawking, who following his first viewing of The Theory of Everything gave the verdict: “Broadly true.”  

Of the Two Popes, McCarten said: “I would love to think that one day Francis would see it, I would doubt that Benedict would ever be interested but I would love Francis to see it. I dare say if he does I’ll never hear about it or what he thinks.”