The battle of the Pope John Paul II movies is back on.
ABC, whose project has taken a back seat to CBS' planned four-hour miniseries, has announced the start of filming on its version of the late pontiff's life. "Have No Fear: The Life of Pope John Paul II" is shooting in Lithuania and will also film some scenes in Rome.
Thomas Kretschmann ("The Pianist," USA's "Frankenstein") will star in "Have No Fear" as Pope John Paul. The film will also feature Bruno Ganz ("Wings of Desire," "The Manchurian Candidate") as Cardinal Wyszynski, head of the Catholic Church in Poland, and Joaquim de Almeida ("24") as Salvadoran Bishop Oscar Romero, who was murdered during John Paul II's tenure.
The story, written by Michael Hirst ("Elizabeth") and Judd Parkin, will chronicle Karol Wojtyla's life as a student at an underground seminary in Nazi-occupied Poland, his rapid rise through the Catholic Church hierarchy and his more than quarter century as pope, during which he helped lead the fight against Communism in his home country.
ABC's project and CBS' "Pope John Paul II" -- which stars Ian Holm ("The Lord of the Rings") as the pope in his later years and Cary Elwes ("Saw") as the younger Wojtyla -- will cover much of the same ground, so getting on the air first may be key. Neither network has set an airdate yet, but both could conceivably be ready to go by the end of the year.