January 14, 2004 06:41 PM

“Gladiator” director Ridley Scott is hoping to resolve a dispute with Spain’s Catholic Church, which has stopped the filmmaker from shooting his $100-million movie “Kingdom of Heaven” inside Cordoba’s historic Mezquita Cathedral, reports the BBC.

“The archbishop refused because we would close the cathedral down for preparations — we would have to do some ‘dressing,’ and tourism would be stopped,” said Quinn Donoghue, a publicist for the film, which stars Orlando Bloom and Liam Neeson.

The story, set in the 12th Century, concerns a young blacksmith (Bloom) who leads the people of Jerusalem in defense against the Crusaders. The movie is due to be released next year.

Of the standoff, “It’s hopefully being rectified and we hope to get permission (Thursday),” Donoghue went on to say, explaining that the Mezquita (which for centuries has been a holy shrine for both Christians and Muslims) would become a “fictional” movie backdrop rather than “playing itself.”

Donoghue also said Scott is a “realistic and pragmatic” filmmaker who already has “a second choice” in mind should the Church refuse to budge on the permission issue.

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