The Leopard
Courtesy: Moviestore Collection-REX Shutterstock / Demian Gregory

Inspiring Visconti’s masterpiece, novel was published without parts that will now be incorporated into new film

LONDON – London-based film producer Demian Gregory has acquired in exclusivity the film and TV rights for the world to Italian classic novel “The Leopard,” the towering classic Italian novel which inspired Luchino Visconti’s 1963 masterpiece “The Leopard,” starring Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale and for some – Martin Scorsese, for example– one of the greatest films ever made.

To be produced by Gregory’s U.K.-based Agathae Films, the novel is currently being re-imagined as a theatrical feature film, “The Last Leopard.”

Written by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and named by “The Observer” as one of the ten best historical novels ever-“The Leopard” has sold over 10 million copies since its posthumous publication in 1958. Set between 1860 and 1882, with a 1910 postscript, the book turns on a Sicilian nobleman, Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina, caught in the turmoil of Italy’s Risorgimiento – Garibaldi’s revolution, Italy’s unification – and confronting both historical change and his own mortality.

Depicting the luxury and fading fortunes of a Sicilian aristocracy as the Risorgimento set in-  – so promising upscale entertainment of the highest order – it is the novel’s sense of the process of historical change – summed up by a dictat made by Alain Delon’s character in Visconti’s film and taken from the novel, that “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change,” – that appealed to Visconti’s Marxist aristocrat sensibility and has been taken on board, to a lesser or larger extent, by ruling regimes evolving from dictatorship to democracy over much of the contemporary developing world. In that, The Leopard could hardly be more contemporary.

Initially rejected by a number of leading publishers, “The Leopard” was published a year after the author’s death. It encountered immediate international success.

“The Last Leopard’s” screenplay, which is now being written, includes parts of the novel that were not originally published but were found by the author’s estate over the years. The film will also tap other unpublished material.

Per Gregory, the film’s director, screenwriter, cast and other elements will be announced shortly. Deal is an outright purchase, not an option. Gregory said. The television rights, including to a serial, will be made available, he added.

“’The Leopard’ was very forward for his time, so much so that its themes are still very relevant today,” said Gregory.

He added: “Capturing the dramatic sweep and the aesthetic culture of 1860’s Sicily, in all its decadent beauty, with a breath of modern prospective is an ambitious challenge. The new film can’t be anything less than a spellbinding epic.”

Production will take place in Sicily, overseen by line-producer Isabella Arnaud, who commented: “The strength of this venture is being able to repropose one of the greatest treasures of literature to modern audiences with new interpretations.”

Agathae Films is formed by Gregory and backed by a private equity fund.

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