Prior to The Pope’s Exorcist, Russell Crowe had never led a horror film.
“It was just something I hadn’t done – a genre I’ve never really touched at all. Scary movies put me off my sleep,” says the Academy Award®-winning actor with a laugh. “I’m incredibly superstitious. Moving in circles like this where you’re examining situations that the characters face… It’s not necessarily a comfortable place for me. Certainly, there were a lot of unusual things happening around us, but you keep your balance and see them as coincidence, otherwise you’re going to drive yourself a little bit insane.”
Lucky for Crowe, there were plenty of things to keep him busy throughout the making of The Pope’s Exorcist.
In order to understand his character and what made him tick, Crowe dove into research, amassing all the material he could about the late Father Gabriele Amorth, the real-life Pope’s exorcist who was able to chronicle his stories in the best-selling memoirs on which the film is based. Crowe travelled to Rome, where he spent a week meeting people from the Vatican who knew the Pope’s exorcist. For all of the rumors of the secretive Church, Crowe says, “I have to say that the Church was very open. We were given some extreme privileges by those in charge at the Vatican.”
Director Julius Avery says that on that trip to Rome, he and Crowe saw firsthand how fondly Father Amorth is remembered, admired, and loved – which Crowe wanted to honor in his portrayal. Of course, the film is not a documentary, and some elements would have poetic license, but within that, “he never went against his real character. It remained grounded and real. That’s why I feel his performance is so wonderful; because he was able to embody the spirit of Father Amorth.”
In his research, Crowe uncovered a man who could make a perfect lead for a mystery thriller – the ultimate insider with the trust of one of the oldest and most powerful organizations on the planet… but also a person of strong convictions and an unflinching thirst for the truth. Crowe says that Amorth’s colleagues and friends from the Vatican told him that the exorcist “never had any disagreements with anybody and always followed the line of the church,” while at the same time, the actor notes, “Father Amorth said some very controversial things in his time. He made some very strong statements, at various points in time, about his beliefs – which weren’t always 100% in line with the Church.”
“He had a certain, particular irreverent take on things that I tried to bring into the film,” Crowe continues. “He’s an individual, not a cookie cutter man of the cloth. He rides a Lambretta motor scooter!”
About The Pope’s Exorcist
Inspired by the actual files of Father Gabriele Amorth, Chief Exorcist of the Vatican (Academy Award®-winner Russell Crowe), The Pope’s Exorcist follows Amorth as he investigates a young boy’s terrifying possession and ends up uncovering a centuries-old conspiracy the Vatican has desperately tried to keep hidden.
The film is directed by Julius Avery, screenplay by Michael Petroni and Evan Spiliotopoulos, screen story by Michael Petroni and R. Dean McCreary & Chester Hastings, based on the books “An Exorcist Tells His Story” and “An Exorcist: More Stories” by Fr. Gabriele Amorth.