May 15, 2008 / 7:38 AM / 10 years ago

New actress to play pope in troubled project

COLOGNE (Hollywood Reporter) - German actress Johanna Wokalek (“Barefoot”) will replace Franke Potente as the 9th-century female pontiff in “Pope Joan.”

German actress Johanna Wokalek poses during a presentation of the European 'Shooting Stars 2006' award winners in Berlin February 13, 2006. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

The change is the latest in a long litany of delays, talent changes and lawsuits that have plagued Constantin Film’s adaptation of Donna Cross’ international bestseller.

Palme d’Or winner Volker Schlondorff (“The Tin Drum”) was initially attached to the project but Constantin replaced him with director Sonke Wortmann after Schlondorff publicly criticized the German company’s plans to produce a feature film and a two-part miniseries version of the project.

Wortmann was initially set to shoot the medieval drama last year but production was called off after John Goodman, who had been cast to play Pope Sergius, pulled out. Constantin filed a $3 million breach of contract lawsuit against Goodman. Constantin said Wednesday that they remain in talks with Goodman and that the actor could still join the cast.

But the delay cost Constantin its star. Scheduling conflicts forced Potente (“Run Lola Run”) to pull out. It’s an open question how the change will effect the project’s bankability. While Wokalek is highly respected inside the German industry, she lacks Potente’s international cachet.

Principal photography on “Pope Joan” is now set to begin in August, for a planned 2009 release.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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