The Pope’s Exorcist: Is the Horror Movie Based on a True Story?

Russell Crowe stars in his first horror movie, ‘The Pope’s Exorcist,’ directed by Julius Avery. It follows an exorcist named Father Gabriele Amorth, who investigates the terrifying case of a young boy’s possession. To get to the bottom of the case and rid the boy of the demonic entity, Amorth brings a centuries-old conspiracy to light that the Vatican had managed to keep under the carpet all this time. Apart from Crowe, the supernatural horror film features stellar onscreen performances from talented actors like Daniel Zovatto, Alex Essoe, Franco Nero, Laurel Marsden, and Peter DeSouza-Feighoney.

While the belief in supernatural elements and spirits is subjective, a few horror tales make everyone’s head turn and spark some questions in their minds, and so is the case with the storyline of ‘The Pope’s Exorcist.’ Although the entire narrative seems surreal, some parts of the film will likely make many of you wonder if it has anything to do with real life. Well, in that case, let’s explore the same and find out, shall we?

Gabriele Amorth: The Man Behind the Story

Yes, ‘The Pope’s Exorcist’ is partially based on a true story. The writers Michael Petroni, Evan Spiliotopoulos, R. Dean McCreary, Chester Hastings, and Jeff Katz took inspiration from Gabriele Amorth’s memoirs — ‘An Exorcist Tells His Story’ and ‘An Exorcist: More Stories’ — and created the thrilling screenplay for the Julius Avery directorial.

Father Gabriele Amorth was an actual and celebrated priest who was first ordained as a Catholic priest in 1954 after fighting in World War II against Italian fascism. Decades later, in June 1986, he got appointed as an Exorcist of the Diocese of Rome before getting promoted to Chief Exorcist of the Vatican six years later, in 1992. It is claimed that during his 30-year career, Amorth performed about 160,000 exorcisms, which some have disputed over the years.

Before Amorth passed away in 2016 at 91, he gave the rights to his books to producer Michael Patrick Kaczmarek, having rejected multiple offers over the years from different film studios. The latter explained in the movie’s production notes, “I believe I was able to succeed where other producers failed in that I was able to convince Father Amorth about my sincere religious devotion.” Screenwriter Michael Petroni was drafted to write an original story; Kaczmarek praised him, saying, “He did a great job of incorporating real Latin prayers from the book Catholic exorcists use in their work. He brought a great level of authenticity to the script.”

Father Gabriel Amorth//Image Credit: CNN/YouTube

Now that we have established that Father Gabriele Amorth was a real exorcist, we might as well look at the other end of the spectrum and learn about the demon that possesses the young boy in ‘The Pope’s Exorcist.’ Its name is Asmodeus, the King of Hell, and he is considered a demon taken from Judeo-Islamic lore, whose existence obviously depends on one’s faith in spirits and demons. In most depictions, Asmodeus, who mainly appears in the Book of Tobit, has been portrayed as the personification of lust.

Apart from ‘The Pope’s Exorcist,’ the themes of possession and exorcism have been explored in many films over the years, which is another reason why many of you find them familiar and realistic. ‘The Conjuring,’ ‘The Exorcist,’ ‘The Vatican Tapes,’ ‘The Nun,’ and ‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose’ touch upon a similar subject. So, it would be fair to say that ‘The Pope’s Exorcist’ is not particularly based on a true story but based on the real-life memoirs of Father Gabriele Amorth.

Read More: Where Was The Pope’s Exorcist Filmed?