Anthony Hopkins Cast in Exorcism Film The Rite

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Anthony Hopkins is the first to board a film called The Rite, a supernatural thriller from New Line. The studio has had the property for a while, and casting Hopkins suggests that it is really moving forward. Mikael Hafstrom directs from Michael Petroni‘s script. But what is the film about? Read on…

THR offers that Hopkins will play “a priest who is an expert in exorcisms and whose methods are not necessarily traditional.” How about a little more detail? For that you’ll have to go to discussions of the book on which the film is based. That is The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, by Matt Baglio.

The book is a journalistic account of the real-world practice of exorcism. Baglio followed a priest through his education in the Catholic Church’s actual exorcism school, and continued to chronicle his work as the priest apprenticed with an Italian exorcist. As Publisher’s Weekly says,

Keenly aware of the misunderstanding that abounds about exorcism through film images, Baglio sets about dispelling misconceptions and does so skillfully, separating the real from the imaginary in the mysterious and unsettling sphere of the demonic. Both Thomas and Baglio were changed by their exposure to the rite. Thomas grew spiritually during the process, which bolstered his desire to help his parishioners, and Baglio, previously a nominal Catholic, reconnected with his faith.

What I’m afraid of here is that we’ll end up with something like The Serpent and the Rainbow, where a foolish, middling horror film is constructed out of the raw material of an interesting book. The Serpent and the Rainbow, as a book, is an enthralling real-world look at the chemistry and culture behind voodoo and zombis (not a typo; ‘zombi’ is the spelling author Wade Davis relies upon) and The Rite sounds like a similarly-oriented book. Hopefully this film will be more interesting than what came out of Serpent. I don’t need an exact translation — that would have to be a documentary — but something in the proper spirit will do.

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