New lingo for Salvatores

CANNES — Italian director Gabriele Salvatores has announced his first English-language project, “Corto Maltese,” a French-Italian co-production to star Christopher Lambert, who teamed with the director on “Nirvana.”

Salvatores, who won a foreign-language film Oscar with “Mediterraneo,” will be the second Italian director to move into English-language features this year, following Giuseppe Tornatore’s “The Legend of the Pianist on the Ocean,” which was picked up by Fine Line.

“Corto Maltese” is based on the popular comic strip by Hugo Pratt about a seafaring adventurer, pirate and crusader in the period between the two World Wars.

Claude Gorsky of French outfit Palm’s Production will produce, with Vittorio Cecchi Gori of the Cecchi Gori Group and Maurizio Totti, who runs Milan-based Colorado Film with Salvatores. Associate producer is Nours Prods.

Salvatores estimates a budget in the $20 million region, with shooting to take place on several far-flung locations including Fiji, the Caribbean and Venice.

“In Italy and France, ‘Corto Maltese’ is very widely known,” Salvatores told Variety. “I started reading it when I was 15 years old; the adventures in some ways recall the work of writers like Conrad, Melville and Jack London.”

Salvatores currently is working on the script for “Corto Maltese,” and plans to scout locations this summer. Shooting should start early next year.

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