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Net’s papal blessing

Hallmark trumps b'casters with John Paul bio

NEW YORK — While CBS and ABC are elbowing each other to get on the air first with a miniseries about the late Pope John Paul II, the Hallmark Channel has trumped them both, ponying up close to $3 million for U.S. rights to completed biopic “A Man Who Became Pope.”

Italian-made four-hour mini, produced in English by Taodue Film, receives its U.S. premiere Aug. 15 on Hallmark.

Starring Piotr Adamcyzk in the title role, “A Man Who Became Pope” covers the life of Karol Wojtyla from his youth in Poland to his assumption of the papacy in 1978. Mini appeared on Italian TV in April, three weeks after the Pope’s death.

Hallmark paid more money for the biopic than for any other one-shot in its history.

Dave Kenin, exec VP of programming, said Hallmark plans to engineer a massive marketing campaign aimed at both Catholics and Protestants.

The miniseries “cost in the double-figure millions,” said Kenin, pointing to scenes that include a detailed re-creation of the invasion of Krakow by the Nazi armies in September 1939 and the post-WWII skirmishes in Poland between occupying Russian troops and local Polish militants. Cast consists primarily of Polish actors, although Matt Craven and Kenneth Welsh play key roles under the direction of Giacomo Battiato.

Ettore Bernabei is producing the CBS mini, which will star Ian Holm as Pope John Paul II. Exec producers of the ABC version are Lorenzo Minoli and Judd Parkin.

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