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Laurent Herbiet to shoot Vatican-set political thriller

Kristin Scott Thomas, André Dussollier and Sergi Lopez to star in timely picture capturing Vatican intrigue.

French director Laurent Herbiet is set to a shoot political thriller set against the backdrop of a Vatican power struggle, Paris-based producer Xavier Castano has confirmed.

News of the project, simply entitled Vatican, has broken amid the on-going Vatileaks scandal in Rome involving the leaking of Pope Benedict’s XVI’s private papers and the arrest of his butler.

“We’ve been developing this project for more than two years and suddenly fiction has been overtaken by fact,” says Castano, long-time producer of Jean-Jacques Annaud.

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The €7 million, French-language production is due to shoot in Rome and Switzerland in June 2013. It is a co-production between Castano’s new company Loull Production and Italian Conchita Airoldi’s Rome-based Urania Pictures.

Gianluigi Nuzzi, the Italian journalist who sparked the real-life scandal with his book “His Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI” detailing alleged corruption and in-fighting among the cardinals at the Vatican, is attached to the project as a script consultant.

“We started talking to Gianluigi last year,” comments Castano. “He is among a number of journalists we’ve consulted during development. It’s an incredibly well-documented script.”

Vatican will revolve around a bitter struggle for Papal power between two cardinals following the death of the Pope. André Dussollier will play a corrupt cardinal with shady financial dealings and Sergi Lopez, his ecclesiastical bodyguard. A well-known Italian actor is currently in the process of being signed to play another ecclesiastical papal aide.

Kristin Scott Thomas is set to co-star as a devout Catholic mother who comes to the Vatican to solve the mysterious death of her Swiss Guard son and stumbles across the web of intrigue in the process.

The latter element of the story takes loose inspiration from the case of young Swiss Guard Cédric Tornay who murdered a senior officer and his wife in 1998 and then allegedly committed suicide. There are numerous conspiracy theories surrounding the deaths.

Herbiet — who collaborated with Alain Resnais on the scripts of his last two films, Wild Grass (Les herbes folles) and You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet (Vous n’avez encore rien vu) — has co-written the Vatican script with Michel Despratx, Nathalie Hertzberg and Christian Roux.

The director has a long track record in capturing political intrigues on screen. His 2006 debut picture The Colonel lifted the lid on the French-Algerian War of the 1950s and 60s, and his more recent television film Farewell, De Gaulle, Farewell captured the late president’s handling of the 1968 student and workers protests.

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