Soderbergh pic undergoes language conversion

Che” began as a labor of love for Benicio Del Toro and producer Laura Bickford, who started talking to Steven Soderbergh about producing the movie while working on Soderbergh’s “Traffic.”

At one time, Terrence Malick was going to helm “Che,” but after years of painstaking research, Soderbergh agreed to direct.

The filmmaker tried to wrangle the unwieldy mass of material with writer Peter Buchman, but the script never jelled. “We could have kept researching for the rest of our lives,” says producer Laura Bickford. Soderbergh finally decided the only solution was to break the film into two parts. “When we started, it was going to be one two-hour movie about Bolivia,” he says. “But when we got further into development, Bolivia without the context of Cuba didn’t make a lot of sense.”

The decision to shoot in Spanish — a language Soderbergh does not speak — with actors from Mexico, Cuba, Chile, Spain, Bolivia, Colombia, Argentina, Puerto Rico and Brazil also sent Wild Bunch scrambling to partners in foreign territories to renegotiate all the deals.

“Wild Bunch stayed with us through thick and thin,” explains Bickford, “as we went from one movie in English to two movies in Spanish.”

After the New York unveiling, the next step is mounting a late-year roadshow in New York and L.A., along with December’s Havana Film Festival, where the filmmakers hope to show the film to one of the few people still around who fought alongside Che: Fidel Castro.

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