LORD OF THE RINGS star SIR Ian Holm will play POPE JOHN PAUL II in a new US miniseries about the late pontiff's amazing life.

Holm, who played BILBO BAGGINS in the Rings trilogy, will play the elder Karol Wojtyla (corr) in the project and will portray the Pope from his election to pontiff all the way to his death earlier this year (05).

Historians at The Vatican have supervised the script for the four-hour mini-series, which is expected to debut later this year (05).

The project will start shooting in Italy and Poland next month (JUL05).

It's not the first time Holm has played a major historical figure - he has played NAPOLEON BONAPARTE twice in TIME BANDITS and THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES, KING JOHN in ROBIN + MARIAN, HEINRICH HIMLER in TV series HOLOCAUST, RICHARD, DUKE OF GLOUCESTER in THE WARS OF THE ROSES and Biblical figures ZERAY in TV series JESUS OF NAZARETH and PONTIUS PILATE in THE MIRACLE MAKER.

30/06/2005 09:05