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All hail Pope Joan!

Donna Cross’ 1996 novel Pope Joan has real shades of The Da Vinci Code about it. Controversial religious themes? Check. Weeks on the bestseller list? Check. A film company snapping up the rights to adapt it? Check!

But it’s been a longer road to the screen for Pope Joan. It’s suffered from legal wrangles and the bankruptcy of original co-producer Senator Film, and is only now getting into shape to shoot. Current rights holders Constantin Film has cast Franka Potente as Johanna von Ingelheim, a 9th century woman who disguises herself as a man and climbs the ranks of the Vatican. Volker Schloendorff, who directed The Handmaid’s Tale, will start work on the film next May.

To maximise their moneymaking possibilities, Constantin will crank out two versions of the movie – a theatrical release and a TV edit chopped into two pieces so that it can make the jump smoothly to the small screen.