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Italian production company AMBI Pictures has confirmed reports that Pope Francis will make his big-screen debut in Beyond the Sun, a film meant to spread the message of Jesus’s Gospel to children around the world. The idea for the movie is believed to have come from the Pontiff himself and all proceeds from the pic will go toward two charities in the Pope’s home nation of Argentina that help at-risk children and teenagers.
This marks the first time that the leader of the Catholic Church will appear in any feature film. The news was widely reported, sparking a response from the Vatican that downplayed the claims while stopping short of a straight-up denial.
Speaking on Vatican Radio, Monsignor Dario Vigano, head of the Vatican’s communications department, acknowledged that the filmmakers may have gotten ahold of some footage of the Pope but disputed his role in the film, claiming that “The Pope is not an actor.” While the Vatican works hard to control Pope Francis’ image, he has often gone his own way, allowing private gatherings to film him while speaking.
The filmmakers confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that the scene in question was shot specifically for Beyond the Sun last summer at the Vatican and shows the Pope speaking to an audience, giving a talk about Jesus’ message. They clarified that it was never their intention to claim that the pontiff was an actor.
Beyond the Sun is billed as a family adventure story based on the biblical Gospels. Principal photography will commence in Italy in early 2016. AMBI will oversee worldwide distribution from its Los Angeles offices.
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