Thesp to star opposite Cage

LONDON — Spanish actress Penelope Cruz will play the female lead opposite Nicolas Cage in Working Title’s “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.”

John Madden is directing the epic romance, based on Louis de Bernieres’ bestselling novel set in WWII during the Italian occupation of the Greek island Cephalonia.

Cruz, Spain’s hottest female star, will play Pelagia, the Greek girl who wins the love of the soft-hearted Italian commander Corelli.

Pic, scripted by Shawn Slovo, starts shooting May 22 in Greece. It will be co-financed by Universal Pictures, parent of London-based Working Title, and Canal Plus. Miramax has U.K. and Australian rights.

Cruz, who starred in Pedro Almodovar’s Oscar-nominated “All About My Mother,” was previously featured in Stephen Frears’ “The Hi-Lo Country” for Working Title. Her most recent Hollywood credit is Billy Bob Thornton’s “All the Pretty Horses.”

Kevin Loader is producing “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” along with Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner.

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