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Vatileaks Scandals Being Developed Into TV Series by Leone Film Group (EXCLUSIVE)

Variety logo Variety 4/20/2017 Nick Vivarelli
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ROME – Italy’s Leone Film Group has acquired rights to a series of books by Italian investigative journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi to develop an English-language TV series based on the so-called Vatileaks scandals that recently exposed rampant corruption and mismanagement at the Vatican.

The books by Nuzzi include “His Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI,” based on documents leaked by Pope Benedict’s butler that some say helped precipitate Benedict’s historic resignation, and “Merchants in the Temple,” also based on confidential documents, which describes more recent episodes of cronyism, greed, and moral malaise and the internal attempts to sabotage Pope Francis’ crackdown.

Nuzzi’s reporting has led to the arrests of several of his sources by Vatican authorities. He was put on trial by a Vatican court in the highly publicized “Vatileaks 2” trial, but was acquitted.

“The TV series will take its cue from the events that led to the Vatileaks scandals,” said Raffaella Leone, managing director of Leone Film Group. “The idea is to start with ‘Merchants in the Temple,’ which is about a pool of experts hired by the Vatican to conduct internal investigations and audits for the pope.”

Nuzzi will supervise and collaborate in the writing process with an American screenwriter, said Leone, who is currently shopping the project in Los Angeles. She is also seeking a U.S. showrunner and director.

Unlike Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Young Pope” skein, which stars Jude Law as an imaginary conservative American pontiff, the intention in this case is “to make a fact-based show, based on what’s in the documents that Nuzzi has written about,” Leone said.

Nuzzi boasts that his books contain the most substantial document leaks in the history of the Roman Catholic Church and that they shed light for the first time on what really goes on behind the walls of Vatican City.

“Since I started writing them in 2008 I entered an amazing thriller-like world of stakeouts, meetings in dark places, retrieval of papal documents, discoveries of secrets and scandals,” Nuzzi said in a statement. “It’s a game of shadows and vices, weaknesses, sex, business and money….I want the world at large to know about the definitive battle between good and evil taking place behind St. Peter’s Square.”

Leone Film Group, which was originally founded by spaghetti Western master Sergio Leone, is announcing this high-profile TV series as it seeks to boost its share price and move to Milan’s main stock exchange from Italy’s AIM market for smaller companies.

The growing outfit, which is mainly a distributor with output deals with Lionsgate and DreamWorks and close ties to several U.S. indies, has been branching out into film and TV production as part of its expansion plan.

Leone Film Group’s budding TV unit got a boost last year when producer Maite Bulgari, wife of Paolo Bulgari, chairman of the Bulgari jewelry firm, invested 6 million euros ($6.4 million) and became a 10.6% shareholder with plans to co-produce TV series. Other Leone group TV projects in the works are spaghetti Western series “Colt,” to be helmed by Stefano Sollima (“Gomorrah”), and Mafia origins skein “I Beat Paoli,” which Giuseppe Tornatore is attached to write and direct.

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