Alongside Renfield, There’s a handful of films out this week, including The Pope’s Exorcist. Similar to Warner Bros. Conjuring series, the movie stars Russell Crowe as a fictional version of Father Gabriele Amorth, who served as the Vatican’s Chief Exorcist. And in this case, “fictional” means “a priest who also has a shotgun when the situation calls for it.”
Beyond Crowe, the other big draw of the film might be director Julius Avery. Best known for 2018’s Overlord, Avery spoke to The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the film’s release to talk about his inspirations for the film and its ambitions. He was candid in saying that he never had any intention of this being a serious look at a long-running figure in the Vatican, and wanted to be as fantastical as possible. Beyond the Conjuring movies, he’d likened the movie to Indiana Jones and Exorcist III, the latter of which he loved as a child for being so outlandish.
“When I was brought on, I leaned into the more pulpy side of things,” said Avery. “I love smashing real and grounded with over-the-top, bonkers stuff.” By his own profession, he wasn’t much of an exorcism horror fan, but his interest in Pope’s Exorcist grew upon reading its script (from co-writers Michael Petroni and Evan Spiliotopoulus) and its portrayal of Amorth. “He felt like Dirty Harry and Columbo, a real rogue within the church. […] He can thumb his nose at the new ways of the Church, but he’s also this super faithful servant of God where his faith is unquestionable. So I just love that contradiction.”
Test screenings for Pope showed that audiences took to Crowe’s take on Amorth, which Avery found himself pleased with. If the film does well, he hopes to do more with Amorth and his fellow priest, Father Esquibel (Daniel Zovatto). “In the movie, we set up that there’s 200 evil places where God is not welcome, and so there’s 199 more movies to go,” he pointed out. “It’d 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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