Fans of the Hollow Man film franchise were surprised today when Columbia Pictures announced it would cast Pope Benedict XVI in the supporting role of the third installment, due to be released next February. Both of them have written letters to the studio protesting the choice as uninspired and predictable. Why Hollow Man 3, they ask? Because apparently Hollow Man 2 came out two years ago, without anybody noticing.
Director Ted Walsh was quick to defend the choice of the Pope. "In the previous two films, we took a very literal approach to the whole idea of being hollow. With this one we want to explore hollowness from a more metaphorical angle". Walsh feels that the audience will be able to relate to the Pope on this level since they are used to his empty promises and the hollow foundations on which his religion is based. "What good is the threat of punishment in the afterlife", he asks, "when most people don't plan to have one?"
A tangle with the producers has however forced Walsh into a compromise with regards to how the Pope will be portrayed. Hesitant to overestimate their audience's intelligence, they have convinced Walsh to portray the pope as actually hollow.
Viewers will of course remember the Pope from his teenage performance in the Hitler Youth. While some moviegoers have expressed concern that the Pope has limited acting experience, Walsh spoke out in support of the choice. "He's done a pretty good job so far convincing tons of Catholics that someone's up there watching their every move, you know, like Santa Claus or something. He almost had me believing my sperm had souls for a while. He's good, you know. Really good". Walsh also voiced his opinion that this role will be a change of pace for the Pope and will help to avoid him being typecast in the grumpy old man role.
Pope Benedict will be playing the role of an elderly, jaded hollow man, as the reluctant mentor to a young, upstart hollow teen, to be played by Shia LeBeouf. At first unwilling to leave retirement, the Pope's character decides to shepherd LeBeouf's as he begins to see what damage hollowness can wreak in untrained hollow hands. Under the Pope's guidance, LeBeouf sees how he can gain the unwitting trust of a solid society for his own personal hollow gratification, without offering them anything in return. Asked whether there was a positive moral to be drawn from the story, Walsh assured reporters that no, there was not. "You might say it's a hollow film".
A spokesman for the Pope said that he was excited to be working alongside LeBeouf, although he was reportedly disappointed to learn that the young actor is now legally an adult. The Pope has also expressed interest in playing the role of Frodo in a potential fourth installment of The Lord of the Rings. "I like the whole patriarchal, savior role," he said yesterday, "but I get tired of this whole Pope gig. It would be nice to play a more believable role. You know, something historical, something important". Asked whether he thought the lack of anything new to bring to the audience would hinder the development of a fourth Rings movie, he joked "it hasn't stopped Catholicism!"
Some Christians are wondering whether casting the Pope in such a flippant role constitutes blasphemy, or at least a cheapening of the Vatican brand. Actor Mel Gibson has however helped to dispel these fears by assuring followers that it's not about slander. "What's important for the faith is that people see me as a Jew-hater. I really do hate them, you know".
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