In early 2007, John Goodman was sued for backing out of his role as Pope Serguis. Not too long after, Constantin Film halted production. The production was slapped with more drama when the director was fired for comments made to a newspaper. But then they got a new director, and things looked on the up and up. That is, until star Franka Potente backed out in May of 2008. Then the film got another jolt back in the plus column -- John Goodman returned and David Wenham signed on.
Believe it or not, the film finally got produced, has made the rounds of some European cities, and is in the top three of Italy's box office, behind Sex and the City 2 and Robin Hood. So now that the production drama is in the past, it's time to induce the ire of the Catholic Church.
As the story goes, there was a woman in the ninth century who posed as a young man to enter a Benedictine monastery, calling herself Brother John Anglicus. She made her way to cardinal, and finally Pope in 853, where it's said she ruled for almost three years before people found out her sex in the most surprising way -- giving birth to a child in public. Legend had it she was killed, and to this day, the Church maintains that she never existed -- that the Protestant Church created the story to discredit Rome.
Some fall on the side of myth, while others point at a number of clues that might make the story likely. As the Daily Mail notes, there's everything from artwork in St. Peter's showing a female pope, to a chair in the Vatican Museum that has a hole used to check for, quite bluntly, male genitalia. The Telegraph, meanwhile, discusses texts written by bishops and other religious figures who mention her existence.
Myth or history, Pope Joan is making her way to British screens, and one would assume Stateside after that. But for now, L'Avvenire, a newspaper for Italian bishops, describes the movie as a "hoax" and quite amusingly for a church that doesn't accept women to such high roles, that it's a film of "extremely limited vision." But the Vatican, for now, is staying silent, presumably because it's a controversy they don't want boiling once again.