Italian producers began shooting a television film about the life of Pope John Paul II in southern Poland, where the pontiff grew up and began his church career.

The film crew began shooting scenes Saturday of a young and athletic Karol Wojtyla (search) kayaking in Lake Dobczyce near Krakow (search), where he served as bishop from the 1950s, said Marcin Marcinkiewicz, a spokesman for the producers.

"Karol, the story of a man who became pope" is to be broadcast in two 90-minute segments on Italian television. Production is expected to finish next spring, but no date has been set for the broadcast.

The film is adapted from a historical account by Italian writer Gian Franco Svidercoschi (search), with the first part set during World War II and the second in postwar Poland.

"The pope has seen the screenplay," Marcinkiewicz told The Associated Press. While most of the movie will be filmed in Poland, some scenes will be shot at the Vatican, he said.

Both Italian director Giacomo Battiato and the actor who plays the pope, 32-year-old Piotr Adamczyk, say they feel intimidated by depicting a character of the pope's stature.

"It is very difficult to make a good film about a man who has become a symbol," Battiato was quoted as saying by the Polish daily Zycie.