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Conclave - What We Know So Far

When it comes to situating a taut and suspenseful political thriller, The Vatican has become a great place for fiction (via The Guardian). This has naturally led to large-scale film and television adaptations with Ron Howard's take on Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" leading the way in 2006. As the epicenter of the Papacy – the headquarters of the Pope – The Vatican is a living embodiment of continuity and spirituality, with over 2,000 years of history filling the halls and catacombs of St. Peter's Basilica and the papal residences. There is also intrigue and mystery surrounding the Holy See, allowing authors numerous plots to work with.

British author Robert Harris turned his creativity to the secretive election process that brings forth a new pontiff in his 2016 novel "Conclave." Now, that book will be adapted into a film with "All Quiet on the Western Front" director Edward Berger helming the production and Ralph Fiennes in the lead role. The movie will feature an all-star cast, and thanks to Berger's impressive directorial work on his adaptation of a World War I classic, there is sure to be a perfect mixture of drama and suspense that helped define the dynamic of Harris' tome. Here is everything we know so far about the feature film.

When will Conclave be released?

The film adaptation of "Conclave" was first announced in May 2022 as a pitch during that year's Cannes Film Festival (per The Hollywood Reporter). The pitching from both FilmNation and Access Entertainment respectively was successful as it has now been announced by Variety that the movie is undergoing principal photography in Rome, Italy. It can be assumed that the feature was given the green light sometime in 2022 and that naturally led to a pre-production phase. Since the movie is currently filming as of this writing, it is unknown when audiences can expect to find out a release date. 

Edward Berger's "All Quiet on the Western Front" was released in the late fall of 2022 and went on to join a prestigious club at the Oscars. Since "Conclave" is also a drama with thriller elements, these types of movies typically fare well as end-of-the-year releases to take advantage of awards season exposure. As stated by Variety, "FilmNation Entertainment is handling international sales and is co-representing U.S. rights with CAA Media Finance." This means a distributor will also need to come on board, so it may be 2024 before the movie is released. Watch this space.

What is Conclave about?

Robert Harris' "Conclave" was published in 2016, and will be written for the screen by Peter Straughn. If the screenplay remains faithful to the source material, the story concerns Cardinal Lawrence (Ralph Fiennes) a member of the College of Cardinals who convenes in The Vatican to elect a new pope upon the death or resignation of a previous pontiff (via The New York Times). During the secretive electoral process, Lawrence becomes front and center inside of a conspiracy between rival Cardinals all promoting their own interests in the voting process.

The novel takes advantage of the numerous dark secrets of the Holy See, which makes sense seeing as how the election of a new papal reign is shrouded in secrecy. As the elective process continues, Fiennes' character will also have to grapple with a secret kept by the departed pontiff which could affect the election of a new leader of the worldwide Catholic Church. Based on the novel summary, Straughn's screenplay and Edward Berger's direction should fit nicely in the mystery-thriller genre with a strong dose of corruptive politics.

Who is starring in Conclave?

"Conclave" will feature an all-star cast that includes Ralph Fiennes in the leading role of Cardinal Lawrence, with supporting performances from John Lithgow (Cardinal Tremblay), Stanley Tucci (Cardinal Bellini), Isabella Rossellini (Sister Agnes), Jacek Koman (Archbishop Wozniak) along with Lucian Msamati, Sergio Castellitto, and Carlos Diehz. Fiennes, Lithgow, and Tucci will all play some of the cardinals who are called to The Vatican to select a new pope.

Fiennes is an actor known for numerous influential acting moments, in addition to Lithgow, Tucci, and Rossellini, who are all versatile and consistently engaging in their performances. Speaking about the cast at the movie's announcement back in May 2022, FilmNation President of Production Ashley Fox shared (via Deadline), "Conclave is already surrounded by exceptional artists, and we can't wait for them to bring Robert Harris' brilliant story to life onscreen ... Working from Peter Straughan's sharp and elegant screenplay, Edward Berger and his stellar cast will create a thriller unlike any other we've seen."

Who is directing Conclave?

German filmmaker Edward Berger will direct the screen adaptation of "Conclave," which comes immediately after his adaptation of "All Quiet on the Western Front" for Netflix. Berger also worked on the TV programs "The Terror," "Patrick Melrose," and "Your Honor," The director is skilled at moving from one genre to the next, such as the battlefields of the First World War into the halls of power at St. Peter's Basilica.

He told /Film in an interview that not keeping the same mindset for each movie is his preferred method and shared that choosing the best tone and atmosphere for each new movie's story is more important than maintaining a trademark style. Speaking about "Conclave" in an interview with Deadline, Berger shared details about the film and how it is a spiritual journey concerning the theme of doubt. The director stated, "That journey of doubt attracted me, and also the fact that it's an interesting story about vying for power and the power games that go on behind the scenes."