Famed Italian studio books major film, TV projects

ROME — Cinecitta Studios is preparing for an American invasion with the Renny Harlin-helmed reshoot of “Exorcist: The Beginning” and HBO TV series “Rome” booked to arrive soon, while Touchstone Pictures’ “The Life Aquatic” is shooting.

The historic Rome lot is so busy that the “Exorcist” prequel’s six-week reshoot, scheduled to start in mid-November, will take place in soundstages at the adjacent Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia film school, where pre-production is already under way.

The radical revamp comes after original helmer Paul Schrader and producers Morgan Creek Prods. had creative differences. Schrader shot at Cinecitta for eight weeks in early 2003. Under the prequel’s new production plan, stars Clara Bellar and singer/actor Billy Crawford are ankling, and their scenes will be reshot, according to insiders.

On Cinecitta’s backlot, workers are striking the ancient Jerusalem set used for Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of Christ” to build a backdrop for “Rome,” the new HBO TV series intended to replace “The Sopranos.” “Rome,” set during the time of Julius Caesar, will go into production in early 2004 and stay at the studios for at least a year. It’s the first major U.S. TV series to shoot at the studios once known as Hollywood-on-the-Tiber.

Wes Anderson-helmed comedy “The Life Aquatic,” inspired by French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, has for the past six weeks been shooting in Italian locations including Naples and Gore Vidal’s villa in the village of Ravello overlooking the Mediterranean.

Production will move into Cinecitta, where it is expected to remain until the end of January.

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