Steven Spielberg is showing no signs of slowing down in his elder years. The nearly 70-year old director is currently in the middle of principal photography on Ready Player One, which is set for release in March 2018. Earlier this year, he signed on to helm Indiana Jones 5 for Lucasfilm, with a July 2019 premiere planned. In between then, he’ll also complete his latest historical drama, The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara for 2017. The story revolves around an Italian boy who is taken from his Jewish family and raised Catholic. Over the summer, Oscar Isaac and Spielberg’s new muse Mark Rylance signed on for roles.
In the early stages of development, Spielberg was hoping to release Edgardo Mortara through The Weinstein Company, which is spearheaded by Oscar whisperer Harvey Weinstein. However, in April, Spielberg moved on to take the picture somewhere else. Weinstein may have missed out on a dream collaboration, but he remains a fan of the Edgardo Mortara story (he was developing the project for eight years) and is now working on his own version of the film.
According to THR, The Weinstein Company is piecing together an adaptation of the David Kertzer novel, pegging Everest director Baltasar Kormakur to call the shots and Robert De Niro to star as Pope Pius IX (the part Rylance has secured in Spielberg’s film). It’s important to keep in mind that the studio is just in talks with the talent at this juncture, and no one has yet to officially sign on.
Twin movies, or works that share an essentially identical premise, are nothing new for Hollywood. The dueling Edgardo Mortara dramas will be the latest in a long line of similar films. It will be interesting to see which one is ready for release first. Weinstein is looking to get the cameras rolling on his take by January 2017; Spielberg is aiming for a spring 2017 production start with the intention of having it ready for next year’s awards season. Given that both films are in the early stages, it’s difficult to say if they will cover different sections of Mortara’s life, but Spielberg and Weinstein would probably like for there to be some difference between their movies.
Another possibility is that only one Edgardo Mortara makes its way to theaters. Some viewers may recall that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were working on a biopic of notorious Boston mobster Whitey Bulger as Scott Cooper’s Black Mass (starring Johnny Depp as Bulger) was coming through the pipeline, but they’ve now moved on. Additionally, the “twin movie” practice doesn’t always lead to lucrative results (see: last year’s Steve Jobs flopping at the box office). By the time audiences see one version, there may not be a large demand for the second, regardless of who is involved. It’s a strange situation that many will want to keep an eye on.
It’s true that most cinephiles would most likely want the collaboration between Spielberg and Isaac, but Weinstein’s version sounds promising as well. De Niro, of course, is one of the all-time acting greats who can still deliver a knockout performance when the material is there. Kormakur is best known for action films like Contraband and 2 Guns, but his Everest was generally well-received and boasted some strong technical merits. In both instances, the filmmakers are passionate about the material and will want to do the powerful story justice. Fans will probably prefer one over the other, but both could end up being worthwhile in the end.
We’ll keep you updated on both The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara movies as more information becomes available.