Director helgeland wrangled his cast from ”A Knight?s Tale” to go medieval once more. Heath Ledger stars as a Catholic priest who travels to Rome to help solve his friend?s murder and discovers a gruesome religious ritual left over from the Middle Ages: sin eating. ?A Sin Eater [the film?s original title] was an outcast [who] would come and eat bread and salt off the body of the dying person…and take the burden of their sins onto his own soul,? says director Brian Helgeland. ?The conceit of the movie is that there?s one Sin Eater left [played by German actor Benno Fürmann] and Heath?s journey is to find this guy.? Mark Addy is Ledger?s trusty sidekick, while Shannyn Sossamon provides a ”Thorn Birds”-like love relationship.
After more than five years in development hell, the film finally got the go-ahead with Helgeland at the helm, and shooting began in January 2002. Slated for release last January, Fox unexpectedly pushed it back, sparking reports that studio brass wanted Helgeland to revamp the $30 million flick?s lackluster special effects. But Helgeland insists: ?I haven?t done any more work on the [movie]. To be honest, no one knows where that story came from. It was just bounced around because Fox never had a [release] date they were happy with. It?s not really a summer movie…or a Christmas movie.?
The Killer Moment ”When Benno takes Heath out to see what he does for a living,” says Helgeland. ”It’s unnerving.”