Paolo Sorrentino Casts Toni Servillo to Play Silvio Berlusconi

The director Paolo Sorrentino and the
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ROME – Oscar-winning director Paolo Sorrentino is forging ahead with his film about Silvio Berlusconi, with actor Toni Servillo (“The Great Beauty”) now cast to play the Italian media tycoon-turned-prime minister.

The tentative plan is for the Italian-language pic about Berlusconi and his inner circle to start shooting in Italy this summer. Further casting is underway. Sorrentino is finishing the screenplay, a representative for the director said.

Servillo has played a former Italian premier for Sorrentino in the past: He portrayed the late seven-time Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, who was a symbol of postwar Italy, in the director’s “Il Divo.” More recently, Servillo (pictured, right) appeared as the decadent writer at the center of the Oscar-winning film “The Great Beauty.”

The Berlusconi film’s working title is “Loro,” which translates as “Them” and is a homonym with “L’oro,” which means “gold.”

It will be produced by Indigo Film, the Rome shingle that has made all of Sorrentino’s movies. But “Loro” is not proving easy to finance, sources say, given that Berlusconi-controlled Medusa, which co-financed “The Great Beauty” and Sorrentino’s “Youth,” will not be on board for this one.

Talks are underway with several potential partners, one of which could be Amazon according to Italian industry insiders. Sorrentino’s rep did not comment on this possibility. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request to confirm.

Berlusconi, 80, is gradually exiting Italy’s political arena after more than two decades in the spotlight during which he served four times as prime minister and defined an era in the country’s life. He had open-heart surgery last year and last August signed a deal to sell his A.C. Milan soccer team, a symbol of his success, to a Chinese consortium, though that deal has yet to close.

“Loro” is expected to be a depiction of Berlusconi’s world, but not purely as a scathing critique. It will follow Sorrentino’s shoot of the successful first season of “The Young Pope,” co-produced by Sky, HBO and Canal Plus, starring Jude Law as a morally tormented American pontiff.

Sorrentino has written the screenplays for a second season of the show, for which Sky and HBO are expected to sign up again as producers. But the new season has not been greenlit yet, possibly because Canal Plus is dragging its feet, according to one source.

That is why Sorrentino is free to go ahead with “Loro” if Indigo manages to come up with the financing. It should become clear after Cannes where the films stands.

“The theme of power is everywhere,” Sorrentino told Italian newspaper La Repubblica in an interview published Saturday, in which he called Berlusconi a “concentrate of non-negligible mysteries.”

Berlusconi has previously been fodder for several Italian pictures, most notably Nanni Moretti’s 2006 “The Caiman,” about a washed-up B-movie director hired to make a Berlusconi satire. The former prime minister has proved to be a tough cinematic subject. “The Caiman” played well in Italy but was not an international success.

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