'Pope' feature loses blessing of Schlondorff

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Constantin Film has parted ways with director Volker Schlondorff on its adaptation of Donna Cross' best-seller "Pope Joan," the company said Monday.

Constantin dropped Schlondorff after the Oscar-winning helmer of "The Tin Drum" publicly criticized the company's plan to produce two versions of "Joan" — a feature-length film and a two-part miniseries for television.

Constantin used this strategy with Oliver Hirschbiegel's "Downfall," which was a worldwide boxoffice hit and, in its television incarnation, a ratings success for German public broadcaster ARD.

But in an article for German daily the Suedeutsche Zeitung, Schlondorff attacked the plan, calling it an unacceptable restriction of his artistic freedom.

"The article was extremely unhelpful in our getting this project off the ground," Constantin Film production head Martin Moszkowicz said in an interview. "(So) we canceled our cooperation with Volker (Schlondorff)."

Moszkowicz said that producing both a film and TV version is the only way Constantin can successfully finance certain "big-budget" projects like "Downfall" or "Pope Joan."

Constantin will be using the same strategy for two upcoming productions — Uli Edel's 1970s terrorist drama "Der Baader-Meinhof Komplex" and the World War II period piece "Anonyma," which Max Farberbock ("Aimee & Jaguar") will direct.

"Pope Joan" has had a troubled production history.

Originally set up as a co-production between UFA Film & TV and Berlin-based Senator Film, "Pope Joan" was put on hold after Senator went bust in 2004.

Constantin stepped in to co-produce with UFA and helped secure an all-star cast that included Franka Potente and John Goodman.

But the project was again postponed in April after Goodman jumped ship to join the cast of the "Speed Racer."

Constantin sued Goodman for breach of contract. Sources near the company said Monday that Constantin is close to reaching an agreement with the actor.
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