Harvey Weinstein taking on Steven Spielberg with rival Edgardo Mortara film

Harvey Weinstein and Steven Spielberg

by James White |
Published on

You may have heard of the boxing term "rope-a-dope", but what of pope-a-dope? That's the move Harvey Weinstein is looking to pull on old Oscar rival Steven Spielberg as he pushes forward with a competing film based on the kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara in 1858, with Baltasar Kormákur in talks to direct his version.

Spielberg, you might recall, is already developing a take on the story, hiring regular collaborator Mark Rylance as Pope Pius IX for the fascinating true life tale of Mortara. Also on Team Spielberg, Munich's Tony Kushner is adapting David Kertzer’s novel, which charts what happened when a seven-year-old Italian Jew was thrust into controversy, taken from his parents and raised as a Catholic by authorities of the Papacy. He ended up becoming a priest in a story that sees the Pope clashing with the forces of Italian democracy.

On the Weinstein side of things, the producer has been captivated by the Kertzer novel for eight years and he even considered teaming up with Spielberg on the film. But when the man behind Lincoln decided to go his own way, Weinstein pushed a competing vision into fast track development, with Nick Wechsler on script duty and Robert De Niro considering the role of Pope Pius IX. It's likely that the two movies will focus on different aspects and years of Mortara's life, but with Weinstein aiming to kick off shooting in January and Spielberg waiting until spring (he's busy on Ready Player One right now), we could see a real competition come awards time.

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