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'Pope' John Malkovich delights pilgrims on Saint Peter's Square

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Rome (AFP)

Dressed in white robes and other papal insignia, actor John Malkovich delighted throngs on Saint Peter's Square in the Vatican City on Thursday as he filmed a scene for Paulo Sorrentino's "The New Pope" series.

Pilgrims did a double take as the bearded "pontiff" strode around, the 65-year-old going as far as to greet babies proffered for his "blessing".

After the major success of Sorrentino's "The Young Pope" series, starring Jude Law, the Italian director has returned with a follow-up drama with American Malkovich as Pope John Paul III on board a black popemobile rather than the usual white variant.

Bodyguards were on hand just in case the enthusiasm of yellow rose-waving bystanders ever got out of hand as he left the vehicle to acknowledge them.

As well as espying Malkovich, onlookers also got to see the escort of visiting Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite along the famed "via della Conciliazione" avenue en route to a reception with Pope Francis.

But it appeared it was the actor who got top billing as he was put through his paces for the eight-part series -- a collaboration between Sky, HBO and Canal+.

Law played an ultra-conservative and machiavellian Pope Pius XIII in "The Young Pope", a well-received ten-part series.

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