Actor is Shylock in 3rd Italian film role

ROME — Harvey Keitel is beginning to get more work in Italy than most Italian actors. In addition to previously announced roles in films by Giovanni Veronesi and Lina Wertmuller (Daily Variety, March 25), the actor has committed to a project with director Marco Bellocchio.

A preliminary agreement has been reached for Keitel to play hard-hearted money-lender Shylock in Bellocchio’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s comedy “The Merchant of Venice.” The film will be produced by Bellocchio’s Filmalbatros company and Keitel’s New York-based production outfit, the Goatsingers, which confirmed the actor’s involvement in the project.

“Merchant” will be the first English-language feature from Bellocchio, whose films include “Fists in the Pocket,” “China Is Near” and Heinrich von Kleist’s “The Prince of Homburg,” which premiered in competition at Cannes in 1997.

“For most of my life I’ve been asked to shoot films in English, and finally I’ve found the right reason to do one,” Bellocchio told Daily Variety.

“This is not another case of European cinema being colonized by the English language and not an operation in which I feel forced into making sacrifices,” he added. “Instead, it’s a wonderful opportunity to make a film in the language of Shakespeare.”

Bellocchio will start shooting late this summer on “The Nanny,” a feature adaptation of the novella by Pirandello, starring Fabrizio Bentivoglio. He plans to shoot “Merchant” in summer 1999 on locations in Venice and along the Brenta River, where some of Italy’s most magnificent historic villas are situated.

In addition to the Bellocchio project, Keitel is in advanced negotiations to play opposite local star Leonardo Pieraccioni in Veronesi’s “My West,” a comedy-Western produced by Vittorio and Rita Cecchi Gori, lensing this summer.

The actor also has committed to the role of an Italo-American priest in Wertmuller’s Bosnian civil war drama, “An Interesting State.” Keitel’s company currently is putting together financing for the English-language feature. Vanessa Redgrave and French actor Daniel Auteuil also are attached to star.

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