The film version of Pope Joan, the historical novel by Syracuse author Donna Woolfolk Cross, made its American debut Jan. 27 at a Washington, D.C. film festival and it will be screened this fall in Los Angeles and San Francisco, though it still seeks regular U.S. distribution.
Pope Joan is the story of Johanna von Ingelheim, a 9th century German-born woman who, according to legend, disguises herself as a man and ascends the ranks of the Vatican. Starring Johanna Wokalek, David Wenham and John Goodman, Pope Joan was a box-office hit last fall in Europe.
"The film is beautiful," said Cross, a former writing instructor at Onondaga Community College. "It's also brilliantly acted and directed. And despite false rumors, it's in English."
Both the book and the movie elicited blunt disapproval from Vatican officials who steadfastly deny the existence of a female pontiff.
Cross will show trailers from the movie at 7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 19, at Liverpool Public Library, 310 Tulip St., in Liverpool. The author's talk is free; lpl.org; 457-0310.
Last week the novelist and screenwriter discussed the often frustrating process of turning a book into a movie.
Q: Your novel was published in 1996, so it took quite a while for the film version of Pope Joan to hit the screen. How many years, how many different scripts, how many different producers?
A:Ten years, four different production companies, five different directors, seven different scripts, two of which were mine. It's crazy-making! For a while I thought the film would be posthumous -- that is, I wouldn't still be alive by the time it was finally released. Movie-making is not for the faint of heart!
Q: While shot primarily in Germany and Morocco, the film was made in English. Why haven't distributors picked it up for U.S. release?