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RULE, BRITANNIA : Tilting at Titles

FILM CLIPS

August 25, 1991|David Gritten

What's in a name? Ask the producers of "The Pope Must Die," a lighthearted British-produced comedy starring Robbie Coltrane ("Nuns on the Run").

Coltrane plays a sweet-natured rock 'n' roll musician turned priest who is accidentally (don't ask how) elected pontiff. Pope Dave I then becomes the target of murder attempts by arms-dealing bankers working with sinister forces in the Vatican, an echo of the real-life Calvi affair and of a subplot in "Godfather III."

Despite the movie's comic intent, the title "The Pope Must Die" was deemed too sensitive to be disclosed to the people of Yugoslavia, where the film was shot late last year; its working title was "Sleeping With the Fishes."

When "The Pope Must Die" was about to open in London in June, more trouble surfaced. London Transport, the company that runs the city's subway system, banned the movie's posters.

"At first they said the theme of the film was liable to cause offense," groaned Daniel Battsek, managing director of Palace Pictures, which produced the film. "When I explained the story, they admitted it was the title. We compromised with a poster saying "Robbie Coltrane in The Pope."

The movie opens in L.A. Friday, though Battsek is more concerned about its opening that day in another predominantly Catholic country, the Irish Republic. "There's a lot of interest brewing there," he said, a tad wearily.

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