Russell Crowe to star as the Vatican's chief exorcist in new film

Fr. Amorth and Russel Crowe Website Fr. Gabriele Amorth, chief exorcist of Rome, speaks to CNA on May 22, 2013. | Russel Crowe at the Les Misérables red carpet movie premiere, Sydney, Australia on 21 December 2012. | Steven Driscoll/CNA/ commons.wikimedia

Actor Russell Crowe will star as the late Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican’s former chief exorcist, in an upcoming movie, “The Pope’s Exorcist.”

Amorth performed an estimated 100,000 exorcisms up until the time of his death at age 91 in 2016. He was perhaps the world’s best-known exorcist as the author of a number of books, including “An Exorcist Tells His Story,” which inspired the upcoming movie. He was also frequently in the news for his comments on the subject of demonic forces.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph in 2000, he said, “I speak with the devil every day. I talk to him in Latin. He answers in Italian. I have been wrestling with him, day in, day out, for 14 years." 

Amorth was born in Modena, Italy, on May 1, 1925. He entered the mother house of the Congregation of the Society of St. Paul in August 1947, a few years after meeting the order's founder, Blessed James Alberione. Amorth was ordained a priest on Jan. 24, 1951.

It was not until 1986 that Cardinal Ugo Poletti, the vicar general of the Diocese of Rome, appointed him an exorcist.

Amorth often spoke about the growing need for exorcists in a world that lacks faith in God.

“It is very important today because there are so many requests for them. People have lost the faith, and superstition, magic, Satanism, or Ouija boards have taken its place, which then open all the doors to the presence of demons,” Amorth told the National Catholic Register in 2006.

“The Pope’s Exorcist” will be directed by Julius Avery, an Australian director and screenwriter, and is expected to be in theaters in September 2023. Filming for “The Pope’s Exorcist” will begin this August in Ireland.

The Hollywood Reporter said the movie will be based on Amorth's books, which “detail his experiences battling demons that had clutched people in their evil.”

Father Jose Antonio Fortea, a Spanish theologian who knew Amorth, told CNA in 2016 that the priest was highly influential both within and outside the Church.  

"His strong, vigorous voice spoke to millions of people about the action of the devil. He alone, one person, managed to revitalize the ministry in one country and then his influence reached everywhere in the Church. The means to achieve this was simply to tell what he had seen," Fortea said.

William Friedkin, director of the 1973 movie “The Exorcist,” made Amorth the subject of his 2017 documentary film, “The Devil and Father Amorth.”

The documentary shows footage of Friedkin attending an exorcism performed by Amorth. Friedkin later wrote in a Vanity Fair essay that the woman being exorcized in the film had told him, “My problem is caused by evil spirits, but Father Amorth is the only one who helps me.”

The Sunday Telegraph interview notes that “The Exorcist” was Amorth’s favorite movie, despite his comment that the special effects were exaggerated. He said that he liked Friedkin's film because “people need to know what we do.”

Crowe won an Oscar for his work in the 2000 movie Gladiator. In his only other major role with a religious plot, he played the Old Testament protagonist Noah in the 2014 film “Noah” by Darren Aronofsky. 

The star of the upcoming film about the Vatican exorcist was in Vatican City himself this week. On July 19, Crowe visited the Sistine Chapel and was later criticized for taking photographs of the chapel’s interior and posting them on Twitter.

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