Director Edward Berger Teases New Papal Drama ‘Conclave’ On Set

March 02, 2023

Edward Berger says he didn’t realize the BAFTAs were going his way until the final award of the night, when Best Film became the seventh trophy to add to his film’s haul. If he’d known that All Quiet on the Western Front, his adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s First World War novel would do so well, he might have taken the next day off. Instead, he left the Netflix party at around 2am for a flight to Rome, in time for a 9am call at the historic Cinecittà Studios and a full day of shooting on his follow-up.

An adaptation of Robert Harris’s 2016 novel, Conclave’s star-studded cast boasts Ralph Fiennes, Stanley Tucci, Lucian Msamati, John Lithgow and Isabella Rossellini. Fiennes plays Cardinal Lawrence, who is thrown in at the deep end when the Pope unexpectedly dies. Charged with organizing an election to find the Catholic Church a new leader, Lawrence must deal with warring factions within the Vatican while at the same time questioning his own candidacy and the attraction of the power that comes with the post.

Says Berger, “It’s about a spiritual journey of doubt, which Ralph’s character has, but it’s also about the election of a Pope in contemporary times. The main character’s journey attracted me, and also the fact that it’s an interesting story about vying for power and the power games that go on behind the scenes.”

Inviting Deadline to Rome just a couple of days after All Quiet‘s BAFTA success, Berger will today be working on Stage 15. The big giveaway is a cavalcade of cardinals, all 118 of them, as they mill around in the corridor, waiting to shoot the day’s scene. Up in his office, Berger gestures through the window to the next building along. “There’s the Fellini stage, where he always shot,” he says. “There’s a plaque there that says, ‘If any place is home, this is it.’ It’s much more his home than his house was.”

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