Film won't be made without American partner, RAI CEO sez

VENICE — Italy’s RAI Cinema is seeking U.S. partners to board an English-language adaptation of Marguerite Yourcenar’s “Memoirs of Hadrian.”

Pubcaster RAI’s film arm and Rome producer Enzo Peri are developing the project based on the French author’s best-selling portrayal of the Roman empire under Hadrian.

Italian writer Valerio Manfredi, whose screen credits include Baz Luhrmann’s in-the-works “Alexander the Great” biopic, has penned a first draft of the script.

“This is a high-profile project for which we seeking a top director and an A-list cast,” said RAI Cinema CEO Giancarlo Leone. He said the film, budgeted between $20 million and $25 million — will not get made unless it is co-produced with an American partner.

“Manfredi has been faithful to the spirit of Yourcenar’s historically accurate work and at the same time made it cinematically entertaining,” Leone said.

Enzo Peri acquired the rights from French publisher Gallimard four or five years ago.

“Over the next 6-8 months we will be talking to prospective partners. We would like to start shooting towards the end of 2004 with plans for a 2005 release,” Leone said.

This is the first international co-production that RAI Cinema is seeking to launch since its bow in 2000 as the pubcaster’s film unit. RAI Cinema distributes films theatrically in Italy via its 01 subsidiary, until recently a joint venture with Canal Plus. In June RAI absorbed Canal Plus’ 50 % stake in 01.

“At the moment we are still deciding whether we want to stay solo in 01. If we do form a new partnership, this time we will retain control,” Leone said.

Other international projects in RAI Cinema’s pipeline include a new project by Danis Tanovic, whose “No Man’s Land” nabbed the foreign film Oscar in 2002. Tanovic will shoot “Ship High in Transit,” a drama with a comic twist set to start shooting in North Africa in January.

RAI Cinema’s recent acquisitions include Martin Scorsese’s Howard Hughes biopic “The Aviator” and the comedy “Shall We Dance,” starring Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez, from Miramax.

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