Moviemakers Focus on the Pope

From Poland to the papacy, John Paul II's life is a tale of politics, power and emotion — just the elements that might make for a great movie.

As it turns out, the idea of turning the 82-year-old pontiff's story into a film has occurred to more than one moviemaker, with two competing Italian production houses working on new pope projects.

"The pope is the greatest authoritative voice today outside a chorus of hypocrisy," said producer Pietro Valsecchi of Taodue Film. "As far as I'm concerned they should make a hundred films on the pope.

"The first will be ours," he said.

Across town, Lux Vide productions is at work on its own pope movie. "We've already discarded two hypotheses, this is the third," said producer Luca Bernabei. "This one's good, it's a strong idea. We can even say brilliant."

Both sides say getting their film out first isn't important.

The movies are being produced for rival Italian television networks. Both will consist of two 90-minute parts. Each hopes to have the Vatican's blessing — though a senior Church official suggested John Paul might not approve.

"I understand that those close to the Holy Father have discouraged people from making such films," said U.S. Archbishop John P. Foley, whose social-communications office at the Vatican reviews potential film scripts on religious matters.

In any case, both projects are far from completion.

Lux Vide is still working on the treatment — a plot summary that comes before the script. Valsecchi of Taodue says his company is already into its screenplay, and expects to begin shooting in September 2003.