PRODUCTION HAS BEGUN IN LITHUANIA ON "HAVE NO FEAR: THE LIFE OF POPE JOHN PAUL II," FOR ABC
Telefilm Will Star Thomas Kretschmann ("The Pianist") as the Pope, As Well as Bruno Ganz ("Wings of Desire") and Joachim de Almeida ("24")
Emmy-nominated executive producers of the acclaimed telefilms "Jesus" and "Nicholas' Gift," Lorenzo Minoli and Judd Parkin, have teamed again to produce the original movie for television, "Have No Fear: The Life of Pope John Paul II" (working title). Principal photography has begun in Lithuania and will conclude in Rome, and the program will air this season on the ABC Television Network. Thomas Kretschmann ("The Pianist," "King Kong") will star as Pope John Paul II, Bruno Ganz ("Wings of Desire") as Cardinal Wyszynski, the Primate of Poland, and Joachim de Almeida ("24") portrays Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was brutally murdered during the Pope's reign.
In this dramatization, viewers will see, for the first time, not only the spiritual leader's remarkable public life on the world stage, but also the very intimate moments that epitomized his great humanity -- his passions, regrets, frustrations, triumphs and sorrows. Born in 1920 in Wadowice, Poland, Karol "Lolek" Wojtyla was a bright, deeply faithful youth who loved theatre and school, but suffered the loss of his parents and only sibling before he reached adulthood. During World War II, he saw the deportation of Jewish childhood friends, which had a lasting effect on him and shaped his views on Fascism and anti-Semitism. In defiance of the German occupation, he staged his own political plays while risking his life, secretly studying at seminary. He was ordained a priest in 1946, and his great intellect impressed his superiors; he was made a bishop in Poland at just 38 years old, the youngest bishop in the country. Cardinal Wyszynski (portrayed by Bruno Ganz), the head of the Polish Church, was initially skeptical of this young intellectual, but the man who would become Pope proved to be Poland's strongest ally in the fight against Communism and helped give rise to the Solidarity movement. Wojtyla worked hand-in-hand with the beloved Cardinal throughout his life.
Wojtyla's ascendancy through the Church hierarchy was rapid. He participated in Vatican II, rising to Archbishop, then Cardinal. After the death of Pope John Paul I, who was only leader for 33 days, he was elected to become Pope, the first ever from Poland and the youngest appointed in over 100 years. A man of great intellectual and physical vigor, he survived an assassination attempt and later met with his attacker in prison, pardoning the man. The Pope championed causes thought to be liberal and conservative -- asking forgiveness for the Church's missteps through history, while upholding the Church's traditional stances on the right to life, homosexuality and the ordination of women. He traveled the world more than any of his predecessors, preaching the faith and spreading a message of love to millions at a time. During his last decade, he battled numerous health issues and grappled with the sex scandals involving American priests, all while ushering the Church into the New Millennium.
Thomas Kretschmann and Bruno Ganz were most recently seen in the independent film "Downfall," which was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film. In addition, Kretchsmann has a major role in the upcoming feature film, "King Kong," which reunites him with his co-star from "The Pianist," Adrien Brody.
"Have No Fear: The Life of Pope John Paul II" was written by Michael Hirst ("Elizabeth") and Judd Parkin. Jeff Bleckner ("The Beach Boys: An American Family," "Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story") directs. The production company is Five Mile River Films.