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Argentina readies Pope Francis biopic (EXCLUSIVE)

Agresti helms, Pampa, Pentagrama produce

VENICE – Habemus a pope pic. And from Pope Francis’ native Argentina.

One of its most international directors, Alejandro Agresti (“The Lake House”) will direct “Historia de un cura” (A Priest’s Tale), a biopic of Jorge Mario Bergoglio from his childhood through to election in March as the head of the Catholic Church.

Bergoglio became the first Jesuit pope, the first from the southern hemisphere and the first from North or Latin America.

Rodrigo de la Serna, who played memorably opposite Gael Gaecia Bernal in Walter Salles’ “The Motorcycle Diaries,” will limn Pope Francis.

“A Priest’s Tale” is set up at Argentina’s Pampa Films (“Chinese Take-Away”) and Spain’s Pentagrama (“Before the Fall”).

Pablo Bossi (“Nine Queens,” “Son of the Bride”), one of the architects of Argentina’s film renaissance, will produce with Pentagrama’s Jose Ibanez whose credits include Oliver Stone’s “Comandante” and Emir Kusturica’s “Maradona by Kusturica.”

An origins story told in flashbacks and flash-forwards as Bergoglio flies to Rome and attends the papal conclave after the res¡gnation of Pope Benedict XVI, “A Priest’s Tale’s” will focus on Bergoglio as a person, Agresti told Variety.

He added: “More than a rapid biopic of key events, I’m more concerned with getting inside this very singular person, his decision to follow his vocation, and how he combined his faith and reason, having studied as a Jesuit for 14 years before being ordained.”

The grandson of Italians who settled in Argentina, Agresti will also portray Bergoglio’s Italian immigrant family context, his work in Buenos Aires’ villa slums, and austerity and humility, the director said.

Shooting in Argentina, Italy and Germany, where Bergoglio studied, “A Priest Tale’s” budget will be “above-average” for Argentina, “Bossi told Variety.

Movie’s main languages will be Spanish and Italian. The producers aim to structure “A Priest’s Tale” as a co-production with Italy, Bossi added, saying that “A Priest’s Tale” is already semi-financed thanks to private investors.

It will look to tap into Argentinean subsidy and Spanish tax break coin, he added.

“A Priest’s Tale” can also tap into an obvious fan-base among Catholics. But Bossi said he hoped it would reach out beyond Catholic demos.

“Pope Francis is attempting to change things. He can be seen as revolutionary and interests non-Catholics as well.”

Following 2002’s “Valentin,” Agresti was hired as a screenwriter by Harvey Weinstein. He directed Warner Bros.’ 2008 “The Lake House,” with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves, then teamed with John Cusack to co-write the upcoming Argentina-set, English-language “No somos animales,” starring Cusack and with a featured performance by Al Pacino.

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