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Jude Law Was Jealous of John Malkovich’s Pope Shoes

Gabriella Paiella

Holy, holy, holy! HBO has finally blessed us with The New Pope, a follow-up to 2017’s lush papal drama The Young Pope. As far as subjects go, the Catholic Church is a natural fit for creator Paolo Sorrentino’s trademark style of extravagant maximalism cut with the grotesque—and what’s more extravagant and maximalist than papal regalia?

If the first season gave us a smoking Jude Law—both literally and figuratively—in a variety of pristine white robes, this time around Pope Pius XIII is relegated to a mostly undressed, comatose state. When heart transplant after heart transplant fails to revive him, the Vatican decides to elect a replacement. For costume designers Carlo Poggioli and Luca Canfora, this meant developing a whole new range of holy fits. “When we read the new scripts, we noticed that each character had evolved so much that we were forced to renew the type of costumes and go in completely different directions,” they told GQ in an e-mail. “We had to almost double the number of costumes for the extras, especially for those playing members of the clergy, in order to clothe something like 9,000 extras. It was a remarkable challenge!”

So meet the new pope, very much not the same as the old (young) pope. Sir John Brannox, played sublimely by John Malkovich, is an oddball bishop who lives sequestered in an English countryside estate with his ailing elderly parents. And he’ll have you know, he’s not like other priests. For starters, he doesn’t bother with the whole cassock-and-collar thing, opting instead for a wardrobe of opulent, tailored suits—a plaid eggplant three-piece, a fitted cream mandarin collar—fit for the finest dandy in the land.

The New Pope
Courtesy of HBO

Poggioli and Canfora said they developed his style by researching various British aristocrats, poets, and artists, “looking for images above all of peculiar figures who may have had something in common with the somewhat boisterous and accursed youth of our John Brannox.” Who, specifically, fit the elusive “boisterous and accursed” bill? Oscar Wilde, the Duke of Windsor, Prince Michael of Kent, and David Bowie. As for Brannox’s smoky eyeliner, Sorrentino wrote that detail into the script.

The New Pope
Courtesy of HBO

Brannox’s clothes from before he officially becomes Pope John Paul III consist of about 50 items in total, all created by Cesare Attolini. “When John Malkovich came to try his costumes for the first time in the Naples store, he was enraptured by the quality and quantity of the fabrics,” Poggioli and Canfora shared. (Please, take a moment to marinate in the soothing mental image of Malkovich gently stroking a luxurious jacket sleeve.) The religious items came via I Sarti del Borgo, the Roman tailoring house responsible for outfitting local cardinals and bishops as well as the Pontifical Swiss Guard.

One particular Brannox garment to look out for is a red velvet dressing gown printed with angels. “The prints were made by one of the last craftswomen who still carry out fabric printing by hand using wooden molds,” Poggioli and Canfora said. “It was made in a small workshop in Venice by two elderly sisters who work very little nowadays, but who accepted to produce it for us because they’re both devoted Malkovich fans!”

The New Pope
Courtesy of HBO

The trademark red Christian Louboutin papal slippers also appear again, though with a slight difference: the Young Pope’s are red leather, while the New Pope’s are red velvet damask. This was enough to spark some good-natured venial sinning on Jude Law’s part. Per Poggioli and Canfora: “When they met on the set for the first time, both dressed as Popes, Jude Law looked at Malkovich’s shoes. Then he called us and said, ‘I’m very jealous … my shoes aren’t as nice as John’s!’”

But the most discussed clothing item from the series may be the one that consists of the least amount of fabric: Jude Law’s miniscule, skintight papal swimsuit that first debuted in a set of paparazzi snaps taken during filming.

The New Pope
Courtesy of HBO

“The choice of white is linked to the colors a Pope can wear,” the pair explained. Should you be interested in acquiring your own, “it was chosen from the latest Armani bathing suit collection.” Gloria, in excelsis Deo, and so forth.

In HBO's new show premiering this weekend, McBride plays Jesse Gemstone, a televangelist who just happens to be (another) huge asshole.

Originally Appeared on GQ