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Spielberg Takes On the Story of Edgardo Mortara

The 6-year-old Italian Jewish boy was seized by church authorities in 1858

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One of Steven Spielberg’s upcoming projects—besides Robopocalypse, alas—promises to be an interesting one. Variety reports the mega-director has signed on to produce a film adaptation of The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, David Kertzer’s 1998 book. The book tells the curious true story of Mortara, a 6-year-old Italian Jewish boy seized by church authorities in 1858 who ultimately became a Catholic priest. Tony Kushner is reportedly on board to write the script.

Kertzer’s historical work isn’t the first depiction of the young boy’s strange case. In December, a painting of the same name by 19th-century German-Jewish painter Moritz Daniel Oppenheim was sold at Sotheby’s for more than $400,000 to a private American collector. Maya Benton wrote at the time:

The painting, lost for more than a century, depicts the notorious case of Edgardo Mortara, a 6-year-old Italian Jewish boy seized by church authorities from his family’s home in Bologna in 1858, based on a rumor that he had been baptized by the family’s illiterate gentile servant girl. If baptized, the boy would have to be considered a Catholic in the eyes of the church and would no longer be allowed to remain in the home of his Jewish family. Such unauthorized conversions of Jewish children were not uncommon in the papal states. Despite the family’s desperate pleas and protestations, little Edgardo was brought to a monastery in Rome, taken in by the pope, and raised as a Catholic. When he grew up, he became a priest.

Kushner is in the early stages of writing the script, which will be a co-production of DreamWorks and the Weinstein Company.

Related: Big Sell at Sotheby’s for Painting of Boy at the Center of Notorious Historical Case

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Spielberg Takes On the Story of Edgardo Mortara

The 6-year-old Italian Jewish boy was seized by church authorities in 1858

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