Italian producer working on slate of high-profile projects

ROME — Most Italian bizzers are jazzed that native son Gabriele Muccino’s “The Pursuit of Happyness” is in the spotlight in the U.S.

But one of the happiest has got to be his longtime producer Domenico Procacci who, although he has no involvement in Sony’s “Happyness,” will produce Muccino’s next English-language pic and has a slew of other high-profile projects in various stages.

“I think it’s without precedent in film history that an Italian director opened at No. 1 in the U.S.,” Procacci enthused over tea last week at his recently opened Caffe Fandango bistro.

Procacci has set up New York-based the Last Kiss Prods. in tandem with Muccino “to keep working on Gabriele’s English-language movies together, but also to board projects by other directors,” he says. Muccino was recently dismissed from Focus Features project “A Little Game.”

Shingle’s name is, of course, a self-homage to Procacci-produced Italo hit “L’ultimo bacio” (The Last Kiss) which was Muccino’s ticket to Hollywood.

But while Muccino was making history, Procacci wasn’t sitting idle.

The prolific producer’s first English-language co-production, Keira Knightley starrer “Silk,” is in post, skedded for a fall release Stateside via Picturehouse.

Helmed by Canada’s Francois Girard, tale of a 19th-century French silkworm merchant who travels to Japan is based on an international bestseller by Italo author Alessandro Baricco.

Procacci’s Rome-based Fandango is developing another Baricco book, “Without Blood,” into an English-language drama centered on a political murder witnessed by a young girl hiding under the floor.

Some other new projects in the Fandango pipeline:

  • In February, Baricco will start shooting his directorial debut “Lesson 21″ in English. Procacci called this a “very strange and particular project” inspired by Beethoven’s peace-themed Ninth Symphony, the “Ode to Joy.” Pic, partly set in the snowy Italian Alps, is being co-produced with RAI Cinema. Casting is under way.

  • Nanni Moretti, making a rare thesping turn in a pic he is not helming, is set as protag of drama “Caos calmo” (“Calm Chaos”) about a Milan exec’s bizarre bereavement behavior. Moretti is also collaborating on the script, based on a prizewinning book by Sandro Veronesi. Pic will be helmed by Antonello Grimaldi (“Bits and Pieces”) with shooting set to start in the first half of 2007.

  • Matteo Garrone (“The Embalmer,” “First Love”) will helm “Gomorra,” a contempo Neapolitan mob drama based on an expose of Italy’s criminal underbelly by Roberto Saviano, which Farrar, Strauss & Giraux will publish in the U.S. Book is so hard-hitting that mob threats have forced Saviano into hiding.

  • Procacci has also acquired rights to another hot Italo novel, Rome mayor Walter Veltroni’s novel “La scoperta dell’alba” (The Dawn Discovery) about a middle-aged man who picks up a phone and time-travels back to Italy’s terrorism-plagued “years of lead.”

Procacci, who in the past few years has branched out with both Fandango books and also a diskery, is proud that the imprint has reached its 100th tome, while his RadioFandango records recently nabbed the locally prestigious MEI prize as Italy’s top indie music label.

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