MADRID — Paco Plaza, co-director of [“REC”] and Netflix hit “Veronica” – is attached to write and direct “Roman Ritual,” inspired by the cult graphic novella from Spain’s El Torres, and created together with producer Enrique López Lavigne (“28 Weeks Later,” “The Impossible”).
Envisaged as an event series – and sure to discomfit some and scandalize others, the original comic book being rejected by multiple publishers – “Roman Ritual” turns on a Pope who, like Pope Benedict XVI, is forced to quit – but this time round it’s because he’s possessed by the Devil.
Now in development, “Roman Ritual” is set up at El Estudio, the highly connected independent L.A., Mexico City and Madrid-based production house launched at February’s Berlin Film Festival by Canana head Pablo Cruz, López Lavigne and former Sony Pictures Intl. Productions head Diego Suárez Chialvo.
Showrun by Plaza and López Lavigne, the series looks set to follow the main thrust of the graphic novel, delivering a highly contemporary take on the classic exorcism storyline, telling what El Estudio describes as “the final exorcism: the ultimate defiance of the Church’s foundations, of the highest representative of God on the Earth, by the forces of evil.”
In the series, the Pope is possessed, and the Vatican has no choice but to call in exiled Father Salvador Trinidad to save the pontiff. With one exorcism after another failing, however, the Vatican is advancing on the election of a new Pope, unleashing a ferocious power struggle. Trinidad’s challenge is not only to cast out the Pope’s demon, which is currently slaying members of the Curia, but also to penetrate an elaborate conspiracy of interests and crimes, covered up to safeguard the Catholic Church and the entangled prominent members of the Pontifical curia.
“Roman Ritual” is produced by López Lavigne, Plaza, Suárez Chialvo and Cruz.
El Torres admits to having been blown away as a child by William Friedkin and William Peter Blatty’s “The Exorcist” and the latter’s original novel.
To write “Roman Ritual,” which has artwork by Jaime Martínez and colors by Sandra Molina, El Torres drew on books and interviews with Father Gabriele Amorth and the work of Father José Alonso Fortea, another exorcist, mostly his “Summa dæmoniaca” and his “Exorcística.”
“They gave me a lot of ideas about how a demon could behave and how an exorcist couldn’t behave. So our indomitable exorcist, the tired soldier of God, is just a lot of the “’don’t.’”
“‘Roman Ritual’ was conceived as a comic book. Its success in several countries is precisely because comics allow you a certain license and recourses which are difficult to adapt to film and TV,” El Torres said, adding that he never dreamed of a small screen adaptation, “but reality always surprises.”
“It’s not very normal these days to discover re-readings of classic genre subjects that are so fresh, impactful, and at the same time terrifying. This El Torres achieves in his story of possessions which plays with our prior knowledge of the genre,” Plaza said. “He leads us, in a masterly fashion, from the well-known to a place we never imagined.”
López Lavigne added: “At the crossroads between fiction, the graphic novel and the horror genre, ‘Roman Ritual’ is an exemplary story of exorcists in the Vatican that I really want to see as a spectator.”