Next to Renfield, There are a handful of movies releasing this week, including The Pope’s Exorcist. Similar to Warner Bros. Conjuring series, the film stars Russell Crowe as a fictionalized version of Father Gabriele Amorth, who served as the Vatican’s chief exorcist. And in in this case, “fictitious” means “a priest who also has a shotgun when the situation calls for it”.
Beyond Crowe, the film’s other big draw might be director Julius Avery. Best known for 2018s Suzerain, Avery spoke to The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the film’s release to talk about his inspirations for the film and his ambitions. He was candid in saying he never intended it to be a serious look at a longtime figure in the Vatican, and wanted to be as fantastical as possible.. Beyond Conjuring films, he had compared the film to IndianaJones And Exorcist III, the latter of which he loved in his childhood for being so extravagant.
“When I was brought in, I leaned into the pulpier side of things,” Avery said. “I love to smash real and grounded with over the top and bonkers stuff. By his own profession, he wasn’t really a fan of exorcism horror, but his interest in The Pope’s Exorcist grew up reading his screenplay (from co-writers Michael Petroni and Evan Spiliotopoulus) and his portrayal of Amorth. “He felt like Dirty Harry and Columbo, a real thug within the church. (…) He can thumb his nose at the new ways of the Church, but he is also this super faithful servant of God where his faith is unquestionable. So I love this contradiction.
Test screenings for Pope showed that the public adopted Crowe’s point of view on Amorth, which Avery found himself satisfied with. If the film does well, he hopes to do more with Amorth and fellow priest Father Esquibel (Daniel Zovatto). “In the movie, we set up that there are 200 evil places where God is not welcome, and so there are 199 more movies to be made,” he pointed out. “It would also be fun to see Russell again on his Lambretta, with Father Esquibel by his side on a Vespa.
The Pope’s Exorcist is in theaters now.
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