A Will and a way for Italo helmer

ROME — Italian helmer Gabriele Muccino (“The Last Kiss”) will direct Will Smith in Columbia Pictures’ inspirational pic “The Pursuit of Happyness,” based on the true rags-to-riches tale of Chicago investment banker Chris Gardner.

Shooting begins in August in the San Francisco area on the drama in which Smith plays a homeless single father who works his way up the ranks of a brokerage firm to become a billionaire.

Overbrook Entertainment and Escape Artists are producing.

Script was penned by Steve Conrad.

Smith and Muccino met in France to discuss “Happyness” in March, before Smith put in a guest appearance at Italy’s Sanremo Song Festival, the country’s top-rated TV event.

Muccino, Italy’s most commercially successful young director, has scored hits with “The Last Kiss” and “Remember Me, My Love.”

The 38-year-old has long been flirting with Hollywood. He had two projects in development with Miramax, which did not materialize. One of these was a U.S.-set remake of Ettore Scola’s dramedy “We All Loved Each Other So Much.”

An English-lingo remake of “The Last Kiss” is in production at Lakeshore, helmed by Tony Goldwyn.

A cross-generational relationship drama, “The Last Kiss” unspooled Stateside to critical kudos in 2002 after grossing more than $10 million in Italy.

Muccino has in the works another English-lingo project, a coming-of-age pic tentatively titled “Talk to Me About Love,” to be produced by Italy’s Fandango.

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