Steven Spielberg will direct a film about the struggle of 19th-century parents to regain their son who was forcibly taken to be raised as a Christian after being secretly baptized.

The script for “The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara” was written by the Tony Award-winning American playwright Tony Kushner based on the nonfiction book by Pulitzer Prize winner David Kertzer.

The 1997 book tells the story of a 6-year-old boy who was seized from his family’s home in 1858 after his baptism as an infant by the family’s serving girl.

In over 150 years, dozens of articles, books, pieces of art and literature have been inspired by the story of the 6-year-old boy, who was given given an emergency baptism during a serious illness. After his recovery, Mortara, one of eight children, was taken from his family on the legal grounds that the law forbade a Christian child to be brought up by Jews.

The book cover of 'The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara' by David Kertzer. (

The book cover of ‘The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara’ by David Kertzer. (

The family went up against Pope Pius IX, who took a personal interest in the boy and the family’s efforts to have him returned in a case that became an international cause celebre.

In December 2013, a painting, “The Kidapping of Mortara Child” by the leading Jewish artist Moritz Oppenheim, was auctioned at Sotheby’s in New York, after having being considered lost for a century. It was sold to a private American collector for over $400,000.

The American Jewish director “has been attached to this film for some time,” Variety reported.

Mark Rylance, who starred in Spielberg’s last hit, “Bridge of Spies,” and won an Academy Award for best supporting actor, is set to play Pope Pius IX.

Rossella Tercatin contributed to this report