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The Pope’s Exorcist – is Russell Crowe movie based on a true story?

Russell Crowe gets to shout at demons in his first horror movie role in The Pope's Exorcist, but there's a true story behind the scares in this new movie.

Russell Crowe in new horror movie The Pope's Exorcist

Is The Pope’s Exorcist based on a true story? Russell Crowe’s new movie finds the Oscar-winning actor getting his spook on for the first time in a high-spectacle, high-scares chiller set in the murky world of demonic possession.

Crowe has famously been shy of taking on horror movie roles, but plays the title character in The Pope’s Exorcist, directed by Julius Avery of zombie movie Overlord fame. Father Gabriele Amorth is an experienced exorcist by the time the new movie begins in the 1980s, but even he is shaken by the secrets he discovers while investigating a case in Spain.

Father Amorth was a real person, and we’ve delved into The Pope’s Exorcist true story to tell you everything you need to know about the man behind Russell Crowe’s spookiest ever performance.

Is The Pope’s Exorcist based on a true story?

Father Gabriele Amorth was a real priest who really did hold the title Chief Exorcist of the Vatican. However, the movie is an original story based on his diaries.

Amorth was first ordained as a Catholic priest in 1954, having fought against Italian fascism as a partisan in the Second World War. He was eventually given the title of Chief Exorcist of the Vatican in 1992 and claimed to have performed 160,000 exorcisms during his 30-year career.

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There is some doubt about that number, though. Amorth said some victims of possession required hundreds of exorcisms, and he believed some were possessed by more than one demon. So that’s not to say that there hundreds of thousands of demonically possessed folk wandering about Europe during the second half of the 20th century, thankfully.

Amorth passed away in 2016 at the age of 91. Shortly before his death, producer Michael Patrick Kaczmarek optioned the movie rights for his memoirs An Exorcist Tells His Story and An Exorcist: More Stories. The producer then asked screenwriter Michael Petroni to use the memoirs as inspiration for an original tale.

So the actual possession depicted in The Pope’s Exorcist, as well as the conspiracy linking the demon to the events of the Spanish Inquisition, are a fictional invention. Father Amorth, though, was a real and celebrated exorcist.

Peter DeSouza-Feighoney plays the possessed child in horror movie The Pope's Exorcist

What is the demon in The Pope’s Exorcist?

The demon in The Pope’s Exorcist is Asmodeus, the King of Hell, and is a real demon taken from Judeo-Islamic lore.

Asmodeus mostly appears in the Book of Tobit, which is canon in Catholic and Eastern Orthodox teachings but not Jewish and Protestant. In many depictions, he has been portrayed as a personification of lust.

In The Pope’s Exorcist, Asmodeus possesses young boy Henry – played by 12-year-old actor Peter DeSouza-Feighoney – and causes him to speak with the terrifying, gravelly voice of Ralph Ineson.

The demon’s plan is to lure Amorth to investigate the possession, so that he can take control of the exorcist and raise an army of fallen angels to destroy the Church. Thankfully, Amorth is able to foil his malevolent plot. Find out how to watch The Pope’s Exorcist to see all of the spooky chaos play out.

Russell Crowe will become a horror movie lead on The Pope's Exorcist release date

If all of that demonic talk has you on the hunt for more of the best movies to scare you silly, take a look at the best body horror movies, the best slasher movies, the best ghost movies, and the best zombie movies of all time.

We’ve also got you covered on the scariest 2023 movies to look out for, including the Evil Dead Rise release date, the Insidious 5 release date, and The Meg 2 release date.