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The Pope's Exorcist: Maximus Vs. Satan Was Always The Plan, Not A Biopic

If you've taken in "The Pope's Exorcist" starring Russell Crowe, you already know that very little of the film conforms to what most people would describe as "the real world." Even the most hardened true believers in Catholic dogma aren't likely to witness the acts of demonic power seen in the film, not to mention its alternate history of possession within the leadership of the Church going back to the Spanish Inquisition. So it might be surprising to some that Crowe's character in the film is in fact based on a real person: Father Gabriele Amorth, who was the Diocese of Rome's real-life exorcist for years, making him essentially "The Pope's Exorcist."

Director Julius Avery has specialized in the cinema of the fantastic in works like "Overlord" and "Samaritan," and he sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to discuss the curious blend of fact and fiction that makes up "The Pope's Exorcist." "If you're coming into this to see a serious biopic, you're gonna walk away pretty disappointed," said Avery. "That was never the intention of the movie, and it's probably got more in common with Indiana Jones than it does the original 'Exorcist.'"

And of course, Crowe's casting allowed for a dynamic that would not have been possible in a more strictly fact-based version of the concept: "Russell is gonna hate me for saying this, but who doesn't want to see the 'Gladiator' take on the Devil?" Avery asked.

Director Julius Avery wanted to honor the real-life Pope's Exorcist within his horror-fantasy

Julius Avery said his interest in helming "The Pope's Exorcist" stemmed from his affection for the character of Gabriele Amorth, who, despite being based on a real figure, struck the filmmaker as belonging to a proud fictional tradition. "I loved this character of Father Amorth. He felt like Dirty Harry and Columbo, a real rogue within the church. He is this flawed character, which I love. He can thumb his nose at the new ways of the Church, but he's also this super faithful servant of God where his faith is unquestionable," Avery said.

That, plus Avery's interest in using the barest facts of Amorth's work to create an exciting (and wholly fictional) narrative, motivated him to take the project on.

Avery also seems interested in the film's sequel potential, with Father Amorth (Russell Crowe) and Father Esquibel (Daniel Zovatto) set up to take on another 199 demons following their successful encounter with Asmodeus at the end of the movie, allowing for 199 sequels to "The Pope's Exorcist" to be theoretically possible. "So that would be fun to see. It'd also be fun to see Russell again on his Lambretta, with Father Esquibel by his side on a Vespa," Avery said.