MILAN — The announcement of a TV miniseries about the life of the pope has caused a stir in Italy.
At a conference in Orvieto, Mediaset TV production prexy Maurizio Costanzo said the Silvio Berlusconi-backed broadcaster will co-produce a two-part miniseries about the life of Pope John Paul II, with Ben Kingsley as the pontiff.
“We’ll do the series with Italy’s production company Lux Video, which has just received the Vatican’s authorization and has been granted exclusive world rights for this program. It’s a very important agreement,” Costanzo said.
However, the announcement caused an immediate reaction from both Lux, the producer behind the “The Bible” series, and the Vatican.
“We are still discussing the deal with the Vatican, with Kingsley and with director Richard Attenborough,” Lux CEO Matilde Bernabei told reporters. “Any announcement is premature.”
“As far as I know, no authorization was requested nor granted,” Vatican spokesman Enrique Planas said in Rome.
In a period in which the pope’s health is a matter of discussion both within the Catholic Church (a cardinal recently suggested that he should retire) and by the media, the announcement of a TV series on his life did not seem very diplomatic.
Costanzo admitted that the deal was not yet closed, but said the final agreement will be reached soon.
The pope mini would be included in a batch of new TV drama programs produced and co-produced by Mediaset, which is investing $170 million this year in TV production.
Among those projects, Costanzo also announced the first TV series starring veteran film actor Alberto Sordi.
“After 190 movies and all these years in the industry, I think I cannot refuse to act in a TV series,” Sordi said. “I hope this will not do me any harm.”