Cattleya lines up Virzi’s ‘Vida’

'Perfect,' 'Lezioni' also on company's full slate

ROME — Prolific Italian producer Cattleya has several new projects in the works, including “Vita,” the next pic from helmer Paolo Virzi, whose comedy “Caterina Goes to Town” is currently enjoying a handsome domestic run.

Produced by Cattleya, “Caterina” — an ironic portrayal of Berlusconi-era Rome through the eyes of a teenage girl whose family moves from the provinces to the Italian capital — has earned a cool $3 million in four weeks and still looks to have legs.

Virzi is preparing “Vita,” the true tale of two immigrant children from a dusty Italian village who disembark in New York at the turn of the century. The boy and girl part ways once off the boat but are reunited half a century later. Cattleya’s Marco Chimenz said they will be seeking a U.S. star for the female lead.

“Vita” — like more than half of Cattleya’s slate — is based on a novel, in this case Melania Mazzucco’s winner of this year’s Strega, Italy’s top literary nod. Plan is to start shooting next year, with Medusa distributing the pic in Italy.

Other new entries on Cattleya’s slate include an Italian adaptation of “Perfect Skin,” Australian author Nick Earls’ humorous bestseller about a thirtysomething plastic surgeon who becomes a single father after his wife dies. No director is yet attached to this bittersweet generational comedy, also skedded for a 2004 shoot.

Up-and-coming helmer Edoardo Winspeare, whose “Il Miracolo” (The Miracle) unspooled in Venice this year, has joined the Cattleya stable to shoot an ambitious “Lawrence of Arabia”-like drama set in Africa during World War I. Untitled pic will be based on a historical account of the adventures of Italian aristocrat and cavalry lieutenant Amedeo Guillet, who led an Italian attack against the British army in the Eritrean desert and then became chief of an army of Muslim warriors. Shooting is tentatively skedded for September.

Riccardo Tozzi, Chimenz and Giovanni Stabilini left Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset/Medusa to set up their own outfit in 2000.

Nearly four years later, the Rome-based shingle has become a top local production force, thanks largely to its close working relationships with both Medusa and RAI Cinema, and now also with Warner Bros.’ recently established Italian production unit.

The first production partnership for Cattleya and Warner Bros. is “Tre metri sopra il cielo” (Three Steps Above Heaven) a Rome-set teen drama in the vein of “Rebel Without a Cause” that marks the directorial debut of Luca Lucini. Chimenz said he also has high hopes of soon working with 20th Century Fox Intl., which recently hired former Miramax exec. Teresa Moneo in the new post of head of Fox European co-prods, to spearhead Fox’s European production activity.

Director Francesca Archibugi (“Tomorrow”) is skedded to start shooting in India in mid-March on “Lezioni di volo” (Flying Lessons), a coming-of-age pic about a pair of naive young Roman boys on an Indian road trip. They run into a French doctor, to be played by Sophie Marceau.

High-profile projects percolating in Cattleya’s pipeline include “La Dismissione” (The Termination), which Gianni Amelio (“Lamerica”) will shoot in China in 2005. Sergio Castellitto is in advanced talks to star as the lead in this chronicle of the shutdown of a mammoth Italian steel mill, dismantled near Naples after a century of activity and then rebuilt in China.

Shooting is underway outside Rome on “Don’t Move,” a drama starring Penelope Cruz and Castellitto, which latter is directing. This tale of a high-powered doctor’s sentimental entanglement with a destitute young lady (Cruz) is based on Italian author Margaret Mazzantini’s novel, which has been translated in several countries and has sold more than 1 million copies in Italy.

Chimenz said Cattleya has now reached its optimal output goal of making six to eight movies a year.

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