Johanna Wokalek takes on 'Pope Joan'

Replaces Franka Potente in long-delayed project

CANNES -- German actress Johanna Wokalek ("Barefoot") will replace Franka Potente as the ninth century female pontiff in Constantin Film's long-gestating "Pope Joan."

The change is the latest in a long litany of delays, talent changes and lawsuits that have plagued the adaptation of Donna Cross' international best-seller.

Palme d'Or winner Volker Schlondorff ("The Tin Drum") was initially attached to the project but Constantin replaced him with director Sonke Wortmann after Schlondorff publicly criticizing the German company's plans to produce both a feature film and a two-part miniseries version of the project.

Wortmann was initially set to shoot the medieval drama last year but production was called off after John Goodman, who had been cast to play Pope Sergius, pulled out. Constantin filed a $3 million breach of contract lawsuit against Goodman. Constantin said Wednesday that it remains in talks with Goodman and that the actor could still join the cast.

But the delay cost Constantin its star. Scheduling conflicts forced Potente to pull out. It's an open question how the change will affect the project's bankability. While Wokalek is highly respected inside the German industry, she lacks Potente's international cache.

Principle photography on "Pope Joan" is now set to begin in August, for a planned 2009 release.
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