Tognazzi making English debut for HBO

Palminteri, Abraham making 'Excellent Cadavers'

ROME — Shooting kicked off Monday in Rome on the $9 million HBO feature “Excellent Cadavers,” the first English-language project from Italian director Ricky Tognazzi. Chazz Palminteri, F. Murray Abraham and Anna Galiena star in the dramatic account of Mafia assassinations that took place in Sicily in 1992.

Executive producer on the film is Bill Unger, who served in the same capacity on Tony Scott’s “True Romance, “Crimson Tide” and “The Fan.” Producer is David Nichols, most recently exec producer on “Seven Years in Tibet.”

Based on Alexander Stille’s acclaimed nonfiction book, the film was scripted by Peter Pruce. It recounts a 10-year period in recent Italian history, focusing on events leading to the killings of anti-Mafia crusader Giovanni Falcone, his wife and fellow magistrate Paolo Borsellino. The murders paralyzed Italy and set off a more aggressive campaign to defeat organized crime.

Palminteri will play Falcone, with Galiena as his wife, while Abraham plays Mobster turncoat Tommaso Buscetta. The roles of Borsellino and his wife are played by Andy Luotto and Lina Sastri.

“This is the first time a major U.S. production destined for an American audience is inspired by an Italian story and made by an Italian director,” said Tognazzi, who was chosen by producers on the strength of his earlier features “La Scorta” and “Strangled Lives.”

Tognazzi’s fast-paced, suspenseful thrillers full of complex character relationships have earned him a reputation as the most American of Italian directors. “With this film, I hope to become the most Italian of American directors,” he commented. The U.K.-educated director plans to continue making films in English.

Like HBO features “Red Rock West,” “The Second Civil War” and the recent “Gia,” “Excellent Cadavers” will be sold the-atrically outside the U.S. The Italian film follows other international projects from the cable web such as “Citizen X,” shot in Russia, and the Vietnam drama “A Bright Shining Lie,” which currently is in post after lensing in Thailand.

“HBO is a very unique outlet,” Unger said. “They still take risks that aren’t possible within the studio system, and for that reason, I think HBO is to be applauded. They are fearless about taking on controversial current events; properties the studios believe have only a niche in the marketplace.”

“I think it’s obvious from my point of view that this is a very Italian story,” Unger added. “But it’s also the story of a hero that knows no boundaries. If we do the job we hope to, this could be quite a television event.”

Shooting will continue in Rome and Palermo through mid-May, with the film expected to air before the end of this year. The deaths of Falcone and Borsellino previously were the subject of director Giuseppe Ferrara’s 1993 feature “Giovanni Falcone.”

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