On October 19 2009 the movie "Pope Joan" (in German: "Die Päpstin") was had its world premiere in Berlin. Many famous actors were on the red carpet, including David Wenham, John Goodman, Johanna Wokalek and the film's director Sönke Wortmann.
The German-made film, based on Donna Woolfolk Cross' book, Pope Joan: A Novel, tells the story of a woman born in 814 A.D. in the German city of Ingelheim who disguises herself as a man and rises through the Vatican ranks to become the only female pontiff in history.
Goodman, who stars opposite German actress Johanna Wokalek in the title role, told reporters this week that the role required surprisingly little preparation, despite the departure from the many comedies for which he is best known.
"When I put on my dress," said Goodman, referring to the luxurious papal robes he donned for the part of Pope Sergius, "everything fell into place, the actors -- everything -- was wonderful. They did my job for me."
Wokalek, who is relatively unknown outside of Germany but received considerable acclaim for her role in the 2008 drama "The Baader Meinhof Complex," said she saw the film as a celebration of a strong woman "who sought to overcome all obstacles and find the strength repeatedly to do so, regardless of what hardships she met with along the way."
For Goodman, best known for playing Dan Conner on the hit sitcom "Roseanne" in the 1980s and '90s, playing a commanding pope in a historical drama required above all a change of wardrobe.
"They would not let me wear sunglasses," joked Goodman, referencing arguably his most famous role as the shades-wearing Walter Sobchak in the cult classic "The Big Lebowski."
Cross told reporters her 400-page novel was based on the historical information recorded about Pope Joan who, disguised as "Brother John," became Pope Sergius' personal physician and confidant, before allegedly becoming pope herself.
Many scholars assert that Pope Joan was a Medieval legend.
"What I wanted was to take that fascinating skeleton of a story and put flesh on it: give it laughter, smiles, tears -- the things that make a story human," she said. "But in the arch of her story -- in when she lived and who surrounded her and how she died and all of those points -- we have followed history completely."
The film, produced by Constantin Film and directed by Soenke Wortmann, was filmed in English, largely on location in Germany. It will be distributed by Summit Entertainment in the U.S. No release date has yet been set.