Stephen Collins plays a pedophile priest in short film 'Penance'

Stephen Collins portrays a pedophile priest in the short 'Penance,' which has screened at recent film fests

In an eerie echo of his off-screen turmoil, actor Stephen Collins, who is currently under investigation for alleged child molestation, portrays a pedophile priest in an independent short film that has played at film festivals recently.

The 11-minute short, "Penance," stars David Lyons as a troubled man who seeks help from a priest (Collins) to "clear his conscience and discover exactly what it means to find forgiveness … or to give it," as the film's website says.

"Penance" screened at the Catalina Film Festival on Sept. 27, less than two weeks before an audio recording emerged in which Collins allegedly admits to sexually abusing three underage girls.

"Inside Edition" recently interviewed Ron Truppa, director of the Catalina festival, who said, "As the news started to break, chills kind of went up our spine." He added, "It's just one of those things that are really uncanny, when art imitates life like that." (Watch the clip at right.)

"Penance" is directed by Jeff Wolfe, a stunt coordinator who also served as second-unit director on the NBC series "Revolution," where he worked with Collins and Lyons.

In a statement to People on Tuesday, Wolfe said, "Although my short film, 'Penance,' has recently played at a number of film festivals, it was actually made in 2013." He added, "When I cast Stephen Collins, I had no idea there might be a connection between his real life and the part I asked him to play. I found the recent allegations particularly shocking, as my film is meant to speak to victims of abuse and the idea that the effects of abuse never really go away."

According to the film's Facebook page, "Penance" was pulled from the Denver Film Festival and didn't screen at the San Jose International Short Film Festival as scheduled.

Collins, 67, has not been charged with a crime, but New York police are investigating him in the wake of TMZ's posting of an audiotape that it said was made by the actor's estranged wife during a therapy session in 2012. The man on the tape, identified as Collins, mentions two underage victims in New York and one in Los Angeles, according to TMZ.

After the recording went public, Collins was dropped from the film "Ted 2," and reruns of his long-running TV show "7th Heaven" were pulled from the air.

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