Moretti pic prime’d

'Caimano' looks likely to lash Berlusconi

ROME — Helmer Nanni Moretti has begun pre-production on “Il caimano” (The Caiman), widely believed to be themed around Italo TV tycoon-turned-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Title is a reference to the fact that the left-leaning La Repubblica paper refers to conservative Berlusconi as a caiman, a South American alligator-like reptile.

Moretti — whose intimate drama “The Son’s Room” took the 2001 Palme d’Or at Cannes — has been among Italy’s most active and vociferous artists opposing Berlusconi in recent years, often attending rallies and marches to protest a range of issues including the conflict of interest between the prime minister’s political role and his business properties.

“Il caimano” starts principal photography in April, with plans for Italo release in March 2006, according to a brief announcement made by the secretive Moretti’s Sacher Film shingle. Sacher declined to provide further information.

While no casting details have been revealed, it’s the first time the Italo auteur will not have a starring role. Helmer has played the protag in his previous 10 pics.

Moretti co-penned the screenplay of “Il caimano” with novelist and screenwriter Francesco Piccolo (“Agata and the Storm”) and helmer-scribe Federica Pontremoli. Moretti and Heidrun Schleef, who co-wrote “The Son’s Room,” came up with the idea and wrote the film’s outline.

Rome-based Sacher is named after the Viennese chocolate cake known as Sachertorte, Moretti’s favorite desert. The shingle is headed by the helmer’s longtime business partner and producer Angelo Barbagallo.

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