Constantin halts 'Pope' prod'n, sues Goodman


BERLIN -- Constantin Film has stopped production on its medieval drama "Pope Joan" as the German company pursues a $3 million lawsuit against John Goodman for allegedly reneging on an agreement to star in the picture.

Constantin confirmed Thursday that it has canceled the "Pope" shoot, which was set to begin May 12 in Sofia, Bulgaria. The company declined to say when the production would go ahead.

Constantin also declined comment on the Goodman suit, which it filed last week in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Constantin alleges that Goodman made a verbal agreement to play Pope Sergius in the Volker Schlondorff-directed film for $500,000. "Pope Joan" is an adaptation of the 1997 best-seller by Donna Woolfolk Cross about a woman who disguises herself as a man and rises through the ranks of the Catholic Church to become Pope. German star Franka Potente has signed to play the lead.

According to Constantin, it relied on Goodman's alleged verbal agreement and did not cast any other actors for his role. On March 14 , Goodman's lawyer told Constantin via e-mail that the actor would not appear in the film.

Constantin is seeking damages for money lost on preproduction.

The "Pope" project has had a long and troubled history. Constantin competitor Senator Film initially secured the rights to Cross' book and planned to shoot in 2003 with Berlin-based TV group UFA Film. Senator subsequently went bankrupt, and the project floundered before Constantin stepped in to revive it.

A 1972 version of the "Pope Joan" legend, starring Liv Ullman and directed by Michael Anderson, also had a troubled history and was involved in a lawsuit between the producer and distributor during its release. The 1972 film is currently available on DVD.

Constantin is positioning "Pope" as an opulent period piece akin to its recent blockbuster "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer." The Tom Tykwer-directed feature, adapted from the book by Patrick Suskind, took in more than $100 million worldwide last year.