Italian Comedy Producer Eyes Film on Pope Francis

Pope Francis I Balcony - H 2013
Getty Images

Pope Francis I Balcony - H 2013

Pietro Valsecchi, who produced the two highest grossing Italian films ever, wants to cast Antonio Banderas as the new pope as a younger man.

ROME -- Pietro Valsecchi, the producer behind the popular comedies from Checco Zalone, says his next project will be an English-language television movie based on the life of Pope Francis.

Valsecchi's Taodue Film production house is best known for backing what are now the two Italian films of all time based on domestic box office receipts, both lowbrow comedies directed by Gennaro Nunziante and starring Zalone, a musician and standup comic: Sun in Buckets (Sole a catinelle) and What a Beautiful Day (Che bella giornata) from 2011.

Both Zalone hits have earned more than €50 million ($68 million) in domestic receipts, pushing Roberto Benigni's 1997 Oscar winner Life is Beautiful (La vita e' bella) into third place on the all-time list.

All told, Taodue Film has made nearly 50 films over the last 20 years, and the company now has its sites set on the new pontiff: Valsecchi said in a television interview he is interested in having Antonio Banderas play the lead role in the project. Banderas, who has not commented on the reports, was born in Spain and is a native Spanish speaker, like the Argentina-born pontiff.

Pope Francis, the former Jorge Mario Bergoglio, has been pope since March. He has become a worldwide phenomenon since then: he has helped spark rises in church attendance and made Francis a more popular name for newborns, while his humble commentary on issues ranging from capitalism to homosexuality have earned him accolades. He is reportedly the odds-on favorite to be named Person of the Year by TIME Magazine.

But so far no major films have been made about his life, though a least a dozen are reported to be in some stage of production including Ridley Scott's The Vatican, which will star Bruno Ganz as an unspecified pope.

Twitter: @EricJLyman