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Producers of new ’Altar Boys’ movie deflect assumptions

By David Germain, The Associated Press
Saturday June 15, 2002

LOS ANGELES — Its title smacks of a hastily produced, ripped-from-the-headlines tale of sex abuse by priests. 

But the makers of “The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys” are quick to emphasize that theirs is a coming-of-age film that has nothing to do with the current scandal in the Roman Catholic Church over cases of child molestation. 

“We hope the title doesn’t turn people off,” said Jodie Foster, a producer of the independent film who also plays a supporting role as a nun. “I would love to get the message out there that it’s not about priests molesting children.” 

Adapted from the novel by Chris Fuhrman, the film opening in limited release Friday stars Emile Hirsch and Kieran Culkin as altar boys who rebel against authority at a Catholic school in the 1970s. 

The boys develop a comic-book fantasy world where they assume super-hero alter-egos and battle Sister Assumpta (Foster), who becomes the evil motorcycle mama Nunzilla in a series of animated segments. 

“Altar Boys” was made long before the current scandal and premiered at last winter’s Sundance Film Festival. The release date also had been set before the scandal hit. 

The filmmakers and distributor ThinkFilm already were locked in on the title and had no desire to change it anyway, they said. They had settled on advertising with a campy, comic-book edge, so the producers reasoned the marketing would make it clear that “Altar Boys” was not about sex abuse. 

“There’s no way anybody could look at that trailer or poster or the ads and construe the movie was about this kind of grave, awful problem currently facing the Catholic Church,” said Mark Urman, head of distribution for ThinkFilm.