It is the ultimate battle of good and evil. It is the ultimate test of faith.
Exorcism, the expelling of evil spirits from a person or place, has been around for millennium, but since the 1973 film “The Exorcist,” the idea has taken root in popular consciousness.
In May 2013, Father Gabriele Amorth said he had performed 160,000 exorcisms during his ministry as the appointed exorcist for the diocese of Rome. Amorth, a Paulist priest, was the chief exorcist of the Vatican – the pope’s exorcist.
Amorth wrote about his experiences in two books, “An Exorcist Tells His Story” and “An Exorcist: More Stories,” and now his life is coming to the big screen as “The Pope’s Exorcist.” Eddie Siebert, S.J., founder and president of Loyola Productions, Inc. (LPI) in Los Angeles, is serving as executive producer for the film, which was optioned by LPI and taken to Sony Screen Gems. Also involved in producing the film are Doug Belgrad of 2.0 Entertainment, as well as Michael Patrick Kaczmarek, producing through his company Jesus & Mary, and Jeff Katz of Worldwide Katz.
“Not unlike an exorcism, bringing this story to the screen was no easy feat,” Siebert said. “It was a nine-year process that garnered LPI both the book and life rights to Father Amorth’s story and included negotiations with the Paulini fathers in Italy and a last-minute flight to Milan to close the deal.”
Siebert, rector of the Jesuit Community at LMU, senior lecturer in the LMU School of Film and Television, and a resident minister on the Loyola Marymount University campus, has built a reputation at Loyola Productions for more than 20 years for telling stories that inform, inspire, and entertain. He has worked on everything from local news to documentary, industrial, and narrative films. He served as the technical advisor for “Nothing Sacred,” the critically acclaimed, Peabody Award winning ABC/20th Century Fox television series. Siebert wrote and directed the award-winning short films “At Last Goodbye” and “Out of Trust,” and executive produced “Blood of the Martyrs” about the story of the Jesuits and women killed in El Salvador at the UCA in 1989, along with the web series “The Real Deal” and “40.”
“The Pope’s Exorcist,” which will be released April 14, 2023, is a supernatural thriller that was filmed in Ireland in the summer of 2022. It stars Russell Crowe as Father Amorth and is directed by Julius Avery, who helmed the 2018 horror movie “Overlord.” Avery said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, “It’s been a goal of mine to work with Russell. To collaborate with him on the amazing ‘Pope’s Exorcist’ is truly a dream come true.”
Amorth, a member of the Society of St. Paul, founded the International Association of Exorcists in 1990. The enormous number of exorcisms is due to Amorth’s belief that a person could be possessed by many demons at once and each demon required prayer and expelling. The film dramatically portrays some of Amorth’s experiences with possessed individuals and with his dealings with the hierarchy.
“‘The Pope’s Exorcist’ is a work of historical fiction in the horror/thriller genre, which is not your typical faith-based film,” said Siebert. “I know that today’s audiences are savvy enough to find meaning in mainstream entertainment, beyond traditional faith-based content. ‘The Pope’s Exorcist’ reflects on some of the most challenging aspects of faith. When we shed light on sin and evil it reflects back the pain of our past and present. While the demons in the film may seem extreme and exaggerated, the movements of disturbance and evil inside of us have the power to overtake us. The story of Father Amorth and his care for souls in distress is one that should be told. I have always believed that the power of prayer, the naming of demons, the forgiveness of sins, and the conquering of evil are central to faith. Any story that ends with the enemy’s defeat is ultimately a story of hope.”