Entertainment & Arts

Mark Rylance to star as Pope in Spielberg film

Steven Spielberg and Mark Rylance Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara will be the third film Steven Spielberg (left) and Mark Rylance have worked on together

Celebrated actor Mark Rylance is to reteam with director Steven Spielberg to star in his next movie The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara.

Rylance, who won a best supporting actor Oscar for Spielberg's Bridge of Spies, will star as Pope Pius IX.

The film will tell the true story of a Jewish boy in Italy in 1858 who is taken from his parents, raised as a Catholic and later becomes a priest.

Filming will start when Spielberg finishes work on Ready Player One.

That sci-fi movie starts filming this summer so The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara is expected to go into production at the start of 2017.

Rylance also has to complete work in the Christopher Nolan World War Two film Dunkirk, which goes into production next month.

The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara will be written by screenwriter Tony Kushner, known for his work on the Oscar-winning Lincoln.

Image copyright DreamWorks
Image caption Mark Rylance (left) played plays Soviet spy Rudolf Abel, who is defended in court by lawyer James Donovan played by Tom Hanks (right)

The true story of the six-year-old Mortara became an international scandal which was ultimately thought to lead to the crumbling of the structure of the Papacy, as it was at the time, and then to the unification of Italy.

The boy was taken from his family home in Bologna because a servant in his household said she had baptised him as an emergency measure when he was very ill.

Mortara grew up as a Catholic under the protection of Pope Pius IX, who refused to return him to his parents despite their pleas.

Mortara subsequently became a priest in the Augustinian order.

Rylance was formerly best known for his work in the London theatre, including in his role as artistic director of the Globe theatre.

He is still active on the West End stage, notably being nominated for an Olivier award for starring as King Philippe V of Spain in Farinelli and the King. He was nominated just hours after winning his first Oscar.

But Rylance has become more open to film roles in recent years and The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara will mark his third movie with Spielberg.

As well as the Cold War thriller Bridge of Spies, Rylance is also playing the title character in Spielberg's The BFG, based on the best-selling children's book by Roald Dahl.

The BFG is set for release this July.

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