Banderas conquers epic

Pic the highest-budgeted Spanish-language pic ever

Antonio Banderas is set to star in the indie epic “Conquistador,” which traces the exploits of 16th century explorer Hernan Cortes.

Gianni Nunnari’s Hollywood Gang Prods. and film financing firm Relativity Media are producing the pic, which Brazilian helmer Andrucha Waddington is tentatively skedded to begin lensing in September in Spain and Mexico. Budget is said to be north of $40 million — the highest ever for a Spanish-language film.

Story, from a screenplay by Nicholas Kazan (“Reversal of Fortune”), revolves around Cortes’ internal and external struggles as he and a small band of soldiers arrive in the New World and bring about the violent destruction of the Aztec empire.

Some scenes will be shot in Mayan and Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs.

Nunnari is producing. Relativity’s Ryan Kavanaugh, Elliott Lewitt, Kazan and Lynwood Spinks are exec producers. Craig J. Flores and Peter Contesse are co-producing.

Relativity, which has structured a number of slate financing deals for the major studios, arranged financing for “Conquistador.”

Paris-based Exception Wild Bunch is handling foreign sales. Wild Bunch, Hollywood Gang and Relativity are in discussions to bring Morena Films on as a Spanish co-production partner.

Banderas will be next be seen in New Line’s “Take the Lead,” which bows Friday, and is now editing his second directorial effort, “El Camino de los Ingleses” (The Road of the English).

Hollywood Gang’s upcoming slate includes “300,” for Warner Bros.; a remake of Italian classic “Everybody’s Fine”; and “11 Minutes,” based on Paulo Coelho’s international bestseller, with Hollywood Gang and New Line co-financing.

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