Actress to star with Lansbury, Redgrave

ROME — Oscar-winning actress Cher is in advanced negotiations to play a leading role in Franco Zeffirelli’s next feature, “Tea With Mussolini,” joining previously announced cast members Angela Lansbury, Joan Plowright and Vanessa Redgrave.

A representative for Cher at ICM confirmed that the actress has agreed to do the film, which is scheduled to start shooting in Tuscany in late July.

Cher will play a wealthy American adventuress and Italophile with a string of husbands behind her, who becomes a mother figure to the young protagonist in the bittersweet comedy set against the dark backdrop of Fascism.

Lansbury, Plowright and Redgrave play a trio of eccentric British expatriates that become the boy’s adoptive aunts in the tale, which takes place prior to and during World War II in the medieval town of San Gimignano and its surrounding region.

The film was scripted by novelist and playwright John Mortimer, based on a childhood chapter from Zeffirelli’s autobiography. Riccardo Tozzi will produce the $14 million feature for his recently established Cattleya Film banner, backed by Medusa Film, which will handle Italian distribution and international sales.

Shooting currently is under way on Cattleya’s debut production, “Marriages,” a comedy about love and wedlock directed by Cristina Comencini and starring Diego Abatantuono, Francesca Neri, Stefania Sandrelli and Claude Brasseur.

The new production outfit’s slate also includes Liliana Cavani’s English-language psycho-thriller “Dissociated States,” adapted from the novel by U.S. author Leonard Simon.

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