Here’s a nice write up from the Sunday Times
THE British film director Michael Winterbottom risks upsetting the Vatican with plans to make a film about the Catholic Church’s alleged past links with organised crime.
Winterbottom, whose previous movies include Welcome to Sarajevo and 24 Hour Party People, is working on an adaptation of The Vatican Connection, a book co-authored by Joe Coffey, a former senior New York police detective who unearthed evidence suggesting the Vatican Bank acted for the mafia.
The planned movie will be shot primarily on location in London. Producers are in preliminary talks with Mark Wahlberg, the star of such films as The Fighter, The Departed and Ted, to play Coffey.
The Vatican Connection was published in 1982, but Coffey claims previous plans to make a film adaptation collapsed under pressure from the Catholic Church. “When we tried to get this movie made way back when the book came out, we met resistance, notably from the Catholic Church … They scared off a lot of movie producers, who were afraid to go with the picture,” he said.
The activities of the Vatican Bank, formally called the Institute for the Works of Religion, have been much discussed since it was formed in 1942.
Michele Sindona, a financier who began dealing with the bank in 1969, had links to the Sicilian mafia and Roberto Calvi, who was found hanged under Blackfriars Bridge in London in 1982. Calvi was nicknamed “God’s Banker” because he was chairman of Banco Ambrosiano, in which the Vatican had a big stake when it collapsed in 1982. His death was ruled to be murder after two inquests.
Coffey said he found his first evidence of alleged collusion between the Vatican Bank and organised criminals in the early 1970s, when he followed suspected members of the New York mafia to Germany. “We got all the information we needed … a shocking revelation that the mafia in New York, with the complicity of German swindlers, was dumping counterfeit and stolen securities into the Vatican Bank,” he said. “Through the years there have been murders affiliated with the story; political corruption.”
While the Vatican has denied its bank is corrupt and worked for organised criminals, reforms have been ordered by Pope Francis. The Vatican could not be contacted for comment.
Coffey believes a film adaptation is now possible because the attention of the Catholic Church is on dealing with a succession of paedophile scandals. The former detective, who became head of New York’s organised crime taskforce, says the script will include new revelations. He is excited by the idea of being played by Wahlberg, who was arrested numerous times during his youth in Boston: “I learnt my trade on the street. He’s got the same type of background I had … I can relate to somebody like him.”
Jeff Most, one of the project’s co-producers, said Winterbottom was the perfect choice of director. “I don’t think there’s anyone working in cinema who’s as good at telling true stories,” he said.
Winterbottom, who has been nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival three times, is working on the script with Coffey and the screenwriter Paul Viragh. He is known as a daring director, having been criticised for graphic scenes of sex and violence in films such as 9 Songs and The Killer Inside Me.
Most said the film would be a fitting tribute to Coffey, whom he described as “one of the greatest detectives … who put his life on the line”.