Director working on project with Gordan Mihic

BERLIN — Serbian helmer Emir Kusturica is preparing to make a biopic about Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa.

The iconoclastic filmmaker, whose last project was a free-wheeling docu about the epic rise and fall of Argentinian soccer legend Diego Maradona, is currently working on the screenplay for “Seven Friends of Pancho Villa and the Woman With Six Fingers.”

Kusturica confirmed to Variety that he is working with regular contributor Gordan Mihic, who also wrote the screenplays for the director’s “Black Cat, White Cat” and “Time of the Gypsies.”

Speaking by phone from his Kustendorf mountainside retreat in Serbia, Kusturica said he had been fascinated by Pancho Villa since his student days when Mexican films about revolutionary figures had “captured his attention.”

Pancho Villa is a legendary figure in Mexico for the role he played in his country’s revolution in the early 20th century.

The chance to make the project — based on the novel “The Friends of Pancho Villa” by James Carlos Blake — comes at a time when Kusturica feels he “finally understands the lives of revolutionaries and the tension between their ideals and what they accomplished.”

French shingle Fidelite will produce; shooting in Mexico, Spain and some interiors in Serbia are due to begin by the end of the year or early 2010.

There are details on budget at this stage although it would be “kept as low as possible” according to Kusturica.

No decision has been made yet on who will play the part of Villa but Javier Bardem is being sought out by the director.

“I hope we are going to have a chance to talk with him soon but his involvement in not confirmed yet,” said Kusturica.

Villa has previously been portrayed many times on screen by thesps such as Antonio Banderas, Telly Savalas and even Villa himself in the 1914 pic “The Life of General Villa,” which was produced by D.W. Griffith and also starred Raoul Walsh as the young leader.

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