With “Stargate” continuing to dominate the Italian box office, and sci-fi fever hotter than it has been in years, Gabriele Salvatores’ timing couldn’t be better. The Oscar-winning “Mediterraneo” director is currently preparing to go boldly where very few of his compatriot helmers have ever gone before: into the future.

Salvatores recently put the finishing touches on his script of “Nirvana.” Set in 2010, the story centers on a videogame programmer whose creation is infected by an electronic virus that triggers its development of a human conscience.

Made aware of his humiliatingly small role in the universal scheme of things, the game’s protagonist convinces his creator to wipe out the program. But the decision entails going into battle against multinational owners.

“The film is about the increasingly direct link between the human brain and the electronic brain, which I find a frightening notion,” Salvatores told Variety.

Maurizio Totti, who runs Colorado Film with Salvatores, will produce in tandem with Vittorio Cecchi Gori. “It’s not exactly science fiction, but it’s the closest thing to it ever done in Italy,” Totti explains. “The visual effects will make it more expensive than anything we’ve made previously.”

The pic’s budget is estimated at around 12 billion lire ($7.5 million), part of which Totti is raising through German and French partners.

Says Totti: “It’s a Eurocentric story, but one that reflects an Italian way of thinking. It could also have been made as an entirely Italian production, but the local market can generally only recover costs of around $3 million-$4 million, so it’s fundamental that international partners be brought in.”

If production elements slot into place as planned, cameras will crank up late summer for a Christmas release in Italy.

Salvatores plans to shoot the film in English on locations in Morocco, India and an undetermined European city.

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