Pressman, DeBrino connect on ‘Vatican’

The Edward R. Pressman Film Corp. and Robert DeBrino’s Canterbury Films are teaming up to produce “The Vatican Connection,” a feature based on Richard Hammer’s controversial 1982 book about illegal activities by top Catholic Church officials.

The story focuses on Joseph Coffey, a New York police detective who bucked political pressure and convinced international law enforcement agencies to pursue his hunch about the Mob’s infiltration of the Vatican.

Hammer, Coffey and scribe Nicholas Pileggi (“Goodfellas”) will serve as consultants on the project. There is currently no screenwriter attached.

Jeff Most (“The Crow,” “The Specialist”) and Chris Hannely (“The Crow”) also will produce the project, which will likely be partially financed by foreign equity investors.

Since well before it was published, “The Vatican Connection” has faced stiff opposition from Church officials, according to Hammer. The author recalls that a Vatican rep approached former New York Mayor Robert Wagner requesting that he ask publisher Henry Holt & Co. to pull the plug on the book.

Moviemakers have met similar resistance, Hammer told Daily Variety. “There have been a lot of discussions, but somebody from the Church has always put the kibosh on it. This is the first time anyone has had the guts to go through with it.”

DeBrino himself wrote to the Papal Nuncio notifying the Church of his intention to make a film based on the book and asking for the Church’s blessing.

“It’s not an indictment of the Vatican,” said DeBrino, an avowed Catholic and an ex-NYPD detective. “It’s an indictment of some bad apples who got involved with the Mafia.”

DeBrino said he later received a call from the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, Tom Melady. “He said it would be in the best interest of me and the Catholic Church not to make the movie.”

Neither Melady or Vatican officials could not be reached for comment.

The filmmakers plan the film’s release to coincide with the Jubilee 2000, the Catholic Church’s worldwide celebration of the coming Third Millennium.

DeBrino is also developing Hammer and Marvin Gosch’s 1974 book “The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano,” which will be adapted for the screen by Haywood (Woody) Gould (“Fort Apache the Bronx,” “Cocktail”).

He is also developing the TV series “Trump Tower.”

DeBrino was represented in the deals by his attorneys, Lee Steiner and Claudia Taylor of Loeb & Loeb, and his agent, Martin Baum of CAA. Pressman was repped by his attorney, Marci Wiseman.

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