ROME — Embarking on its first Italo production, Sony Pictures Entertainment will co-finance and internationally distrib potentially steamy “Melissa P.” Film, based on a bestseller about the sexual awakening of a Sicilian teen, will be directed by Luca Guadagnino (“The Protagonists”).

Book purports to be the real diary of a 16-year-old girl who recounts her first sexual experiences with a young man against the backdrop of her traditional family and school life. More than 2.5 million copies have sold in 23 countries.

Italian actress Francesca Neri’s shingle Bess Films is producing “Melissa P.” in collaboration with Spain’s Pentagrama Films.

Pic’s executive producers are Iona De Macedo, prexy of Columbia Films Spain, and Paulo Simoes, topper of Sony Pictures Releasing Italy.

“This co-production is a great example of the growing synergy between the European units of Sony Pictures Entertainment, and of SPE’s goal to support productions worldwide,” said Gareth Wigan, vice chairman, Columbia Motion Picture Group.

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Shooting is scheduled to start March 7 in southern Italy. Casting is being finalized.