Jack the First
A Screenplay 1999 by Patt Shea and Bud Wiser
©1999 by Patt Shea and Bud Wiser. No part of this literary property shall be copied or offered for sale.
The year was 1294. The College of Cardinals was deadlocked, unable to elect
a pope. Desperate, the cardinals plucked a simple monk, Peter of Morrone,
from his secluded mountaintop abbey, rode him into Rome on the back of a donkey,
and elected him pontiff. It could happen again.
… and so we continue to wait for the
traditional puff of white smoke.,.
… the age old signal that a new pope
has been elected.
Never has the world’s attention been more
focused on the selection of St. Peter’s
successor. Who thought that after such a
short time the cardinals would be at it
…The death of the last pope after serving
such a short time was a shock to the world,
(Rather’s voice lip synched)
Whoever the new pope is, it will fall to
him to lead the world’s more than one
billion Catholics into the new century and
the new millennium.
… as we gather on this grim, gray December
day, the twenty-first century is fast
(Jane Pauley’s voice)
The third millennium is less than a month away.
ST. PETER’S SQUARE
A YOUNG MAN IN THE CROWD
(pointing up, excited)
Is that smoke? White smoke?
The crowd gazes up. The young man busies himself, picking
pockets with both hands.
A phalanx of motorcycles leads a stretch limo on to the Vatican grounds.
Its side is emblazoned with the papal crest. The press surges after it. The
car pulls up to the papal palace. CARDINAL ANTHONY FALCONARI, papal secretary
of state, and his aide, MONSIGNOR RATIGAN, emerge. They push through the crowd
and up the stairs. The media close in on their prey.
Your Eminence! Your Eminence! When will we
have a new pope?
Falconari stops at the top of the steps, turns and looks down on his pursuers.
He stands erect, rigid actually in his crimson robe. He has been playing a
cardinal for 25 years. He plays it well. He raises one hand slightly and waits.
Soon. Soon. The cardinals are back in conclave.
Pray for them.
It’s been four months.
The Holy Spirit works in his own time.
Cardinal Falconari. There’s are rumors that
delay is caused by financial crisis in the Church.
FALCONARI pretends not to hear. He strides into the building, crimson cape
… Rumors run rampant in this Vatican City.
… Insiders say three of the top contenders
have withdrawn their names from consideration.
… Poor health is the reason given. Rumor has
it that the financial problems the new pontiff
will have to face is the real reason.
INT. VATICAN FOYER AND HALLWAYS
Falconari strides along. Ratigan keeps pace. MONSIGNOR CHARLES THOREAU,
Vatican press officer, swings out of his office and hurries to catch up.
He’s 45, Madison Avenue in a cassock. They exchange ‘good mornings.’
When will we have
a pope? When? I wish
This should have
been my time. I’ve
two popes. But no. Not now…
Ratigan nods, ‘Yes.’
The press knows
we’ve got a problem, Your
They can smell it.
Get them off our
backs, Thoreau. You’re
officer. Issue a statement.
Thoreau looks at him.
Take somebody to
lunch. Isn’t that what
And what do I say?
‘Funny thing, nobody
wants to be pope.’
Falconari charges down the hallway, gesturing angrily.
There’s much at
stake. These are crucial
decisions we’re confronted with.
INTERIOR VATICAN – LATER
TWO SWISS GUARDS stand alongside a heavy door. A sign on the door: ‘SACRED
COLLEGE OF CARDINALS’
INT. CARDINALS CONCLAVE –
We’re inside a CHAMBER with 120 CARDINALS.
ON CARDINAL MARTINEZ
He stands with a folder, a pencil. He leans into another cardinal.
You’ve got to decide
something. Make up
He anguishes. Others stare at him anxiously.
I’ll go with …
the Chinese chicken salad
and the fried dumplings.
He hands the menu in.
All right, that’s
forty five orders of
dumplings. Thirty orders of chicken
He turns to a third cardinal.
No answer. He’s engrossed in a book.
CARDINAL KALOPHSKI continues reading his book. We see the book’s logo, a
stylized Celtic picture of a flying bird and the title:
‘THE FLYING GOOSE NEVER LOOKS BACK’ BY FATHER PATRICK
Anything. A double
fries… and a Diet Coke.
Karl turns to CARDINAL ISHIHARA who is reading the same book – in Japanese,
Karl points to a page. Ishihara flips to it. They laugh. Ishihara turns to
ANOTHER CARDINAL, who’s reading an Arabic edition. He points to the page.
OTHERS lean over. They each have copies of the book in their own language.
They laugh and nod their approval.
A FEW HOURS LATER
Several Cardinals are either meditating or napping. Many are still reading
‘THE FLYING GOOSE.’ Next to Cardinal Falconari is ERNESTO CARDINAL GANELLI.
He’s stuffing his face with pastry. Falconari leans in,
This isn’t a book
club. All they’ve done
for weeks is read and re-read that book.
GANNELLI gulps the final bite of pastry and wipes his fingers on his cassock.
He tries to swallow.
I know, Your Eminence.
He hustles to stuff papers into his briefcase. A copy of the Goose Book
clatters to the floor. Falconari glares at him.
I’m only reading
it out of curiosity… to
see what all the fuss is about.
Everybody’s reading it. It’s a best
I don’t want a
book review, Gannelli. I
want a pope.
gives a spin to modern
theology. Listen. ‘How can you look
artichoke and not believe in God?’
Falconari just half listens.
The media are getting
too nosey. I don’t
want to have to tell them that nobody
wants the job because we’re facing
financial ruin and
Snatches an Abba-Zabba bar out of his briefcase.
Maybe you’d like
to tell them that?
Ganelli, as Vatican
treasurer, it seems
that would be your
You’re right. We
have to find somebody
Tonight in my office.
I want every
member of the nominating committee…
(takes Ganelli’s book)
We’re getting every
copy of this book out
of this conclave.
ON STACKS OF ‘THE WILD GOOSE NEVER LOOKS BACK’
Half a dozen cardinals are seated around the table. Monsignor Thoreau stands
behind Falconari’s chair. The committee is studying 8x10 glossies of candidates.
It’s a Hollywood casting session.
(taking glossy from his
Aldo Cardinal Baccaloni.
They all look at him.
He’s so old! He’s
Past tense. He’s
buys us time. A little time.
We can handle him.
He’s very devout. We tell
him it’s God’s
will, he won’t dare say ‘no.’
Well, he does look
They pass the glossy around.
You want ‘holy?’
Take a look at this guy.
He hold up the book. Points to author’s picture.
PHOTOGRAPH OF FATHER PATRICK
A very ascetic looking monk, heavily bearded. His cowl shrouds his face.
He could be 70. He stands amidst a flock of sheep.
Put a bird on his
shoulder and you’ve got
Falconari snatches the book out of Thoreau’s hand and tosses it back on
He’s not even a
We’ve had a lot
of popes who weren’t
(leaning into Falconari)
You want to get
the media off our fannies?
Give ‘em a big
Monsignor, we don’t
We want somebody
who’s not going to give
us any trouble,
Falconari gestures dismissively.
This Father Patrick
has been holed up in
an Irish monastery
for God-knows-how many
years. He’s clueless!
We’re not electing
some Irish monk!
He’s not Irish.
He’s American, from Erie,
Falconari glares at him.
We’re not electing
some American monk.
where the big bucks are.
This is the same
man who told us the big
bucks were in derivatives.
One little mistake.
Who knew the yen was
going to tank?
Falconari takes the picture.
Aldo Cardinal Baccaloni
is our man. He
won’t give us any
Thoreau and Ganelli have lost.
He’s not going
to get us a plugged nickel
from the Americans.
Ernesto, you were
student in the
seminary. You have the
honor of telling
INT. VATICAN CORRIDOR – DAY
Falconari, Thoreau and Ratigan walk along a wide corridor.
We just congratulate
him, pledge our
loyalty and ask
for his blessing.
Cardinal Ganelli exits a room and walks toward them.
Did you tell him?
I told him.
How’d he take it?
The door re-opens. TWO MEDICS wheel a gurney past the group.
A sheet covers the body. A red cap rests on the sheet covering the body.
They look at Ganelli. He shrugs.
And that leaves
If you think you
can sell your Father
Patrick to the
Sacred College of Cardinals,
INT. CONCLAVE OF CARDINALS
Falconari glares across the room as Ganelli shows the picture on the Goose
Book to a cardinal and whispers in his ear. Martinez and Ishihara do the same.
The cardinals look up incredulously. They whisper to three others. Those
three whisper to three others… etc. etc. Father Patrick’s picture is passed
around. There are cries of “Yes, yes!’ ‘Si!’ ‘Oui’ etc. Applause breaks out.
Congratulations are exchanged. Falconari is stunned.
EXT. ST. PETER’S SQUARE – DAY
A white puff of smoke rises. The crowd cheers.
We have a pope!
We have a pope!
A pope! Viva il
We move in on the puff of smoke.
EXT/ WHITE FOG –
The fog lifts revealing a distant hill-top abbey in the Irish countryside.
A monk stands at the bottom of the hill. His back is to us. Sheep graze nearby.
FATHER PATRICK stops and looks up the crest of the hill.
FR. PATRICKS POINT OF VIEW
A little red cap appears over the crest of the hill, then another and another.
Under each cap is a red robe. An army of cardinals swarms over the crest of
the hill. They walk toward him.
ON LINE OF CARDINALS
They approach. They kneel and say something. The monk crumples in a faint.
The cardinals pick him up and, in an orderly procession, carry him off over
EXT. THE ABBEY –
Father Patrick stumbles toward a line of limousines. His hair and beard
are very long. He carries a small duffel bag. In a daze, he waves goodbye.
A DOZEN OTHER MONKS look on, dumbfounded. Father Patrick hugs an old monk,
MICHAEL FITZGERALD. Patrick gets in the limo and looks out the rear window
as the abbey recedes. FITZGERALD gazes dumb struck after the disappearing
EXT. PAPAL JET PLANE IN FLIGHT
In each window we see a little red beret. In the last window, we see white
– the face of Father Patrick staring out.
EXT. ROME AIRPORT – NIGHT
The plane lands.
EXT. ROME STREETS – NIGHT
The papal caravan winds through the city.
INT. PAPAL LIMOUSINE
Patrick stares in awe at the sights of Rome.
EXT. VATICAN – NIGHT
The limousine pulls up to the papal palace. The cheering mob crowds in.
The media and the paparazzi surge forward with microphones and cameras. Father
Patrick steps out of the car into blinding light and chaos. He still wears
the robes of a simple monk. FALCONARI steps forward as others hustle him into
the building. Patrick stops,smiles uncertainly, and gives a hesitant ‘two
Please. Please. The new pontiff has had a ‘
Tomorrow, after the
have a few words. Thank
you. Thank you.
The media push forward, but Patrick is gone.
INT. NEW YORK NETWORK NEWS STUDIO
ON JANE PAULEY
Tomorrow he will
be the leader of the largest
ON ROBERT HAGGER
believe that the last pope
elevated from the
ranks of a simple priest
was Peter or Morrone…
ON LYNN SCHEERER
… who was taken
from his hermitage and crowned
the Fifth. That was in 1294.
INT. POPE'S PRIVATE QUARTERS – NIGHT’
The rooms are palatial, ornate and dreary. The walls are covered with dark
religious paintings and faded tapestries.’
This I a palace from ages past. Papal robes are hung on stands. Patrick
gazes around as he’s led across the room
by the Vatican hierarchy. He’s totally overwhelmed.
(pointing everything out)
These are your
They move through a set of double doors.
And this is one
of your reception areas.
John the Twenty
You’ll meet heads
of state here. President
Kennedy sat on
Patrick studies a particularly gloomy portrait.
St. John the Apostle.
How can you tell?
Falconari just looks at him.
Patrick walks around the room. He touches things.
It was the will
of the Holy Spirit.
But I don’t know
how to be pope.
The Holy Spirit
will guide you, as he
guided the cardinals
who elected you.
Trust him. And,
Thoreau hands Patrick a few stapled papers.
Here’s the schedule
The world is anxious
to see its new pope.
delayed it a few hours,
Patrick looks at him,’
So we can go live
on the ‘Today Show,’
Int. POPE;S QUARTERS –
ON A JEWEL CASE CONTAINING SEVERAL CROSSES
A hand picks one up.
GANELLI (VOICE OVER)
This was first
worn by Pope Clement the
Ganelli hands the cross to Patrick.
These are diamonds.
Patrick drops the piece back in the box,
I couldn’t wear
It’s a symbol of the
office. It’s like
your shepherd’s staff,
FALCONARI hands the shepherd’s staff to the pontiff. Patrick checks it for
balance and breaks into a fancy twirling routine, The others look on in surprise.
That was my last
job … herding sheep,
He leans the staff against the wall.
Ah, I don’t think
I could carry this.
But, it’s the historic
sign of the papacy.
Yeah, but people
really aren’t sheep, are
They do not answer.
And do you have
to call me ‘Holy Father?’
you will be ‘His Holiness,
Pope Gregory the Seventeenth.’
The synod thought
it appropriate. Gregory
Sixteenth was pope,
in 1999, before the Second
I thought I go
with my own name. If that’s all
They exchange glances.
Of course, ‘Patrick.’
‘Pope Patrick.’ We’ve n
never had a Pope Patrick.
No. ‘Father Patrick’
is my pen name. My real name is ‘Jack.’
Oh, Pope John the
No. Not John. ‘Jack.’
Jack Cleary. That’s
my real name.
‘Pope Jack The
Jack smiles. The group is speechless.
Well, good night.
EXT. VATICAN HALLWAY
Falconari is in shock.
Well, you have
to admit, it is very
… ah, American.
INT. POPE’S PRIVATE QUARTERS –
Jack has put on the papal robe. He poses in front of a mirror. He gets into
it. He twirls. Does a little dance.
He walks to the end of the room and opens a door.
INT. CHAPEL – NIGHT
Jack enters, looks at the altar, statues, etc. He walks to a kneeler, kneels
down. He looks up at the altar.
But I hope you know what
EXT. ST. PETER’S SQUARE – DAY
REGIS AND KATHY LEE are fifty feet or so above the procession route. It’s
the Rose Parade set up. And they do pre-Rose Parade commentary.
It’s a perfect
It’s clear and
cool. Crisp actually.
Not too crisp.
It’s perfect. Perfect,
What a day for
INT. FOYER OUTSIDE POPE’S PRIVATE QUARTERS
Cardinals and Swiss guards mill about. Falconari checks his watch.
Thoreau snaps his cell phone shut.
Americans are glued
to their sets.
Neilsen is predicting
a seventy share!
There won’t be
a coronation if that
hurry it up.
The barber hurries out. He’s old and nervous.
Don’t blame me,
Your Eminence. It’s not my
fault! It’s not
He rushes off. A rear view of Pope Jack, in white robes as he appears in
POPE JACK’S POV
The stunned reactions of cardinals, clergy and guards.
ON POPE JACK THE FIRST
He looks 30 years younger without the beard and long hair. He’s handsome,
in his early forties.
Ready when you
INT. A BROADCAST BOOTH
Regis fiddles with his ear piece.
We’ve been told
that the procession
has begun across
St. Peter’s Square.
And I think I can
hear the trumpets.
ON THE PROCESSION
… the new pope
has requested that
Celtic music be
We should be able
to see them any minute.
Can you see anything,
She cranes to look.
They’re just coming
into view. Yes, it is.
It’s the Franciscans
leading the procession.
Eighty or ninety
Franciscans. What a sight.
KATHY LEE (V.O.)
their traditional brown
with that white braided rope…
And they are followed by the Dominicans in
INT. BROADCAST BOOTH –
And here come my
men, the Jesuits. Regis is
a famous Jesuit
name. Did you know that,
I must have heard
that a dozen or so times,
And here come the
cardinals in their red,
here he is, the one we’ve been
Pope Jack The First…
My God! He’s a kid!
What’s he doing?
He is… tipping his hat to
I’ve seen Notre
Dame quarterbacks that look
ON JACK’S WHITE ROBE –
A BLUR OF WHITE
Snow flies. Schussing down a world class run.
ON SKIS, BOOTS, FEMALE LEGS
Twisting, turning, jumping.
ON THE SKIER’S FACE
Mid-thirties, female, beautiful, athletic, determined. After a beat, we
realize that the skier’s goggles are not traditional ski wear. They are virtual
reality goggles. We’re in a gym. ANN MACKENZIE is on a ski machine. The treadmill
beneath her feet slants and yaws and pitches.
Ann flips up the goggles and switches off the machine. She glances up at
the wall clock.
ON CLOCK: 7 A.M.
Ann rushes out with a wave to other skiers and exercisers.
Have to rush. Another
She dashes out.
INT. ST. PETER’S/PAPAL PROCESSION
The papal procession ascends the altar. The cardinals and the new pope assume
REVEAL TV SET
MATT LAUER (V.O.)
Pope Jack The First
has just ascended
the altar of St.
Peter’s for the first
One of many firsts.
It is also the first
time the new pope
has ever been in St.
A HEALTH CLUB LOCKER ROOM/LOUNGE AREA – MORNING
Women in sweats and towels huddle around the TV watching the Today Show’s
telecast of the papal ceremonies. Ann dashes by from the shower without glancing.
EXT. NEW YORK STREETS
CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS EVERYWHERE
Ann tries frantically to get a cab. The city is at a standstill. Gridlock.
Crowds watch portable TV’s and
monitors in store windows. Images of the coronation circle the Times’ Building.
Ann dashes along the streets. We catch
glimpses of the ceremony on TV monitors.
ON TV MONITOR
We SEE the interior of St. Peter’s.
MATT LAUER (V.O.)
The high point
of this ceremony will be
the crowning of
Pope Jack The First by the
Deacon, Anthony Cardinal
ON JACK AND ANN
as he is crowned
The world has a
new pope, Pope Jack The First,
the Supreme Pontiff, Bishop of Rome and head
of the college
So, the first American
pope, a man from Erie,
Pennsylvania, Jesuit educated, Peace Corps
volunteer, a priest
out of an Irish abbey, has
been crowned Pope Jack The First.
EXT. DAZZLING NEW YORK SKYSCRAPER – MORNING
Ann Mackenzie hurries along the street. She charges past a STREET PERSON
with his cup out. Ann passes him. She stops. She mutters to herself and dashes
back and gives him a bill.
She rushes into the building.
INT. LOBBY OFFICE BUILDING – DAY
Ann sails in. A couple of GUARDS and a DELIVERY BOY are watching TV.
An American pope.
Have you seen him, Miss
Ann hurries to the elevator.
I haven’t had time,
(she presses the elevator button)
I’ve got to be
in court today.
I might convert
for this babe. We’re
talking world class
INT. VATICAN CORRIDOR
The new pope, still in shock, is surrounded by a red sea of
cardinals and other clerics.
the people are waiting.
What do I do?
Wave, just wave.
He ushers Jack out on to the balcony.
EXT. ST.PETER’S SQUARE – DAY
Jack walks out on to the balcony. He waves.
ON ST. PETER’S SQUARE
People below cheer.
They’re so far
away. Why don’t I go
Jack continues to wave. He’s enjoying himself.
INT. ANN’S LAW FIRM/HALLWAY
The name on the door reads: WILLETT, BODINE, SHAEFFER AND MACKENZIE, ATTORNEYS
AT LAW. She beeps the door and enters.
INT. A CORNER ‘POWER’ OFFICE – DAY
The bank of windows looks out on New York City from what is
at least the 23d floor. A CLEANING LADY, her vacuum idle, sits in a chair
gaping at the TV. Ann charges in. The cleaning lady is flustered.
It’s okay, Maria.
Sit down. Watch your pope.
Ann glances at the monitor. St. Peter’s Square is jammed.
And so the new
pope, Jack The First, is
being cheered by
ON DISTANT FIGURE ON THE PAPAL BALCONY
Ann pauses to watch.
He waves to the crowd. His hat falls off. He holds it and laughs.
INT. ANN’S OFFICE
Ann reels back and collapses into a chair. She points at the monitor, speechless.
Si, El Papa. El
He can’t be the
pope. That’s my husband!
And of course he is. And that is the dilemma and the story. Gradually, we
learn that Jack and Ann are each sure that the other is dead… killed in a
Central American uprising. Without telling anyone her secret, Ann flies to
Rome. She wants her husband back. Now the pope too has a secret… and a dilemma
that is unique in the history of the modern papacy.
The film is a love story unlike any other… a romantic comedy set in the
The premise is simple. The pope has a wife no one knows about. What does
he do? What would you do?