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January 30, 2017 8:50 am

Steven Spielberg Launches World-Wide Search for ‘Jewish-Italian’ Boy to Star in New Film

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Steven Spielberg. Photo: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.

Auditions are underway around the world for the lead role in director Steven Spielberg’s new film, “The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara,” based on the 1997 book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Kertzer.

The hunt is on for a child actor of Jewish-Italian descent — or at least one who appears as such. The boy must be between the ages of six and nine, but need not have an Italian accent, according to McGregor Casting, which is conducting the Australia auditions. Open audition casting calls are being held elsewhere, as well, including in New York, London, Toronto and Vancouver.

The movie, as the novel before it, is set in 1858 Bologna. It tells the true story of a Jewish boy who was secretly baptized by a maid when he fell ill, and was taken away from his family by Pope Pius IX to be raised as a Catholic in the Vatican. His parents’ desperate struggle to return their son, who eventually became a priest, was a defining moment in papal history.

The role of Edgardo Mortara is “a unique and very challenging part for a truly special boy,” McGregor Casting said on its website, adding that the film’s storyline “deals with the complexity of an extremely intelligent and gifted child’s desire to return to his family and his faith against his ability to learn the catechism and engage with the Pope on a level far beyond his years.”

Oscar-winning actor Mark Rylance, who took home the award for his supporting role in Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies,” will star as Pope Pius IX in the movie, which will begin filming in Italy in April and is scheduled to premiere in December, according to The Australian Jewish News. 

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