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Lux, RAI plan $20 mil series

Drama to focus on Belle Epoque

ROME — Italy’s Lux Vide and pubcaster arm Rai Fiction are committing $20 million to fund a lush, four-part television miniseries, due to commence shooting later this year in Sicily, based on the rise and fall of the dynastic Florio family, one of Europe’s most influential families during the enlightened days of the Belle Epoque.

Lux, best known for its bible films and as the principal backer of the upcoming Euros 28 million ($38 million), seven-nation TV miniseries “War and Peace,” is once again giving this period pic an international flair. “We will be shooting in English, and we plan on an international cast,” Lux VP Matilde Bernabei said.

As with “War and Peace,” Lux sees the U.S., Britain and Western Europe as the primary markets to sell the Florio film into. Bernabei says Lux has been in negotiations with American web Lifetime Television to broadcast another one of Lux’s Belle Epoque-themed productions, also in pre-production, about the life of iconic French fashion designer Coco Chanel.

Bernabei said she is optimistic Lifetime will be interested in carrying both films on the U.S. cable web.

Neither film has been cast as of yet, nor have directors been named for either the Florio film or the Chanel pic; the latter has a $15 million budget, Bernabei adds. Writers for the Florio pic are Maura Nuccetelli (“An Impossible Crime”) and Fabrizio Bettelli (“The Good Pope: Pope John XXIII,” a Lux production).

The Florio film, planned to run at 400 minutes, will portray three generations of the Florio family from their ascent in the 19th century as producers of the famous Marsala wine, and later, as shipping magnates and art patrons, to their abrupt decline. One of the primary tales is that of Franca Florio. Renowned for her beauty, Franca Florio became the inspiration for various artists in the years leading up to World War I.

While this golden age of arts is fairly well known, the Florio family is not exactly a household name among Italians, let alone non-Italian auds. Bernabei is undaunted, pointing to recent unsourced Italian media reports that Sofia Coppola is considering for an upcoming project producing a stylized pic on the life of the beguiling Franca Florio.

“To have a Sicilian family with such a glamorous past, but no connection to the Mafia, this, we feel, gives it cross-border appeal,” she said.

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