A Hollywood film crew has fallen out with the Catholic Church over plans to turn Westminster Cathedral into a replica of the Kremlin.
The producers of Joaquin Phoenix’s biopic Napoleon had arranged to use the cathedral for filming.
But church bosses got hot under the collar and pulled the plug.
Insiders said they were terrified that turning the site into Russian could be offensive during Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Apple TV team led by legendary Alien director Ridley Scott were forced to abandon their elaborate sets and sources said the scenes would be shot using CGI instead, which would cost a rumored £500,000 .
It is understood that some reduced filming continued without the planned backgrounds.
A source said: “The idea of turning such a historic religious site into something so closely linked to Putin was clearly going to be problematic. A decision was made that it just couldn’t happen.
“This is a blockbuster production and the U-turn caused a bit of a stir, to say the least.”
The Kremlin was the historic seat of the Tsars and was occupied by Napoleon when he invaded Russia in 1812 – an incident likely to feature in the new film.
The 119-year-old cathedral is designed in a Byzantine style similar to Russian churches.
It is the center of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales and was the surprise location of Boris Johnson’s wedding to Carrie Symonds last May.
Pope Francis has called the war in Ukraine “cruel and senseless” and Church bosses are keen to distance themselves from the Russian regime.
It’s a popular spot for film crews and served as the setting for Elizabeth: The Golden Age and Alfred Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent.
Joker and The Gladiator star Joaquin, 47, was pictured last month as the spitting image of the conqueror of 19th century Europe while filming in Greenwich.
The film named Napoleon chronicles the French leader’s rise to power during wartime and is set to hit Apple’s streaming service next year.
Westminster Cathedral and AppleTV were asked to comment.