Continuing his prolific, run-and-gun style of filmmaking, we reported about a year ago that Abel Ferrara was following his pandemic thriller Zeros and Ones with a biopic of Italian saint Padre Pio. Starring none other than Shia LaBeouf in casting that takes on a certain level of perverse meta context considering his recent abuse allegations, the film now looks to be completed and the first images have surfaced.

Ferrara, who explored Pio’s life in a 2015 documentary, Searching for Padre Pio, scripted the film with Maurizio Braucci (Martin Eden) and it will follow Padre Pio’s status as a symbol of hope for the Italian people during the country’s difficult inter-war period and exhibition of stigmata. “For Shia, he began to know Pio just as he was discovering his own Christianity. With this film he took a dip in the dark, he threw himself. He went to live in a monastery for months, he shared time with his brothers. It was a very powerful discovery,” Ferrara said.

He added during filming, “It was my father who told me about Padre Pio,” recalling his days attending church in New York growing up. “I immediately understood that only in these places could I make a mystical, mythical, but also true and real film. I tried to enter Padre Pio’s heart, to understand who he was, his history, his spirituality. We came here to understand the miracle, and a miracle is taking place.”

In an interview last month, Ferrara said he was planning to head to Ukraine to film a documentary: “I feel I have to do it.” As we await a likely fall festival premiere for Padre Pio, see the first image above and a behind-the-scenes look below.

Update: Images removed at the request of the production.

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