Keitel inks to star in Italian Western

One of two Italo projects in works for actor

ROME — Harvey Keitel is in advanced negotiations to star with Italian box office champion Leonardo Pieraccioni in the film “My West,” which will be directed by Giovanni Veronesi and produced by Vittorio and Rita Cecchi Gori. It is one of two Italian projects the actor has in the works.

Sources close to the production confirmed that Keitel met this week in Rome with Pieraccioni, Veronesi and Rita Cecchi Gori to discuss the project. Film is due to start shooting in Tuscany and the Italian Alps in May before transferring to desert locations in the U.S.

A spaghetti Western in a comic, melancholy key, “My West” was written by Pieraccioni and Veronesi, who co-scripted all three of Pieraccioni’s phenomenally successful features including “The Cyclone,” which remains the highest-grossing Italian production in history.

Following his most recent hit, “Fireworks,” Pieraccioni decided to take a hiatus from directing this year. In “My West,” he will play a small-town medic who is a pacifist. Keitel is slated to play his reckless but soft-hearted father.

Mario Squillante, Keitel’s Italian agent, and Peggy Gormley, from the actor’s New York-based production company, the Goatsingers, confirmed a preliminary agreement has been signed and a contract is expected to be finalized in coming weeks.

The Goatsingers company and Charles Finch of William Morris’ London office also are putting together financing for Italian director Lina Wertmuller’s long-gestating Bosnian civil war drama, “An Interesting State.” Film will star Keitel as an Italo-American priest. Vanessa Redgrave and French thesp Daniel Auteuil also are attached.

Gormley said she hopes production will crank up by fall on the English-language pic, which was scripted by Wertmuller with veterans Piero De Bernardi and Leo Benvenuti.

Keitel will segue this summer from “My West” to Jane Campion’s “Holy Smoke,” which starts shooting in late June in Australia. Kate Winslet also stars in the Miramax feature about a woman drawn into a religious cult and her relationship with the man who deprograms her.

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