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‘Pinocchio’ plans

Benigni to direct, star in classic Italo tale

ROME — Shooting is set to start in early May on “Pinocchio,” Roberto Benigni’s first outing as writer, director and star since his internationally successful 1997 feature “Life Is Beautiful.”

Scripted by Benigni with regular co-writer Vincenzo Cerami, the film is a retelling of Carlo Collodi’s classic fairy tale, set in the late 19th century. Benigni appears as the wooden puppet-boy, with his wife and “Life Is Beautiful” co-star, Nicoletta Braschi, as the Blue Fairy.

Elda Ferri and Gianluigi Braschi will produce for Melampo Cinematografica; Mario Cotone is executive producer. The Cecchi Gori Group will handle Italian distribution, with international rights still under negotiation.

Cotone confirmed that Miramax is in talks to come aboard the project, continuing the relationship begun with Benigni on “Life Is Beautiful,” which remains the company’s highest-grossing foreign-language acquisition. Miramax had no comment on the negotiations.

Budget has not been disclosed on the feature, which is being shot in the same facilities in Terni, Umbria, where “Life Is Beautiful” was filmed. Three former factory warehouses have been turned into soundstages, which will remain available for future film, television and commercial work after the shoot.

Period sets are being created by Danilo Donati, production designer on “Life Is Beautiful” and an Oscar winner for his work with Federico Fellini. Cinematographer is Dante Spinotti (“Wonder Boys”).

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