Italian director Michele Placido, whose “Vallanzasca — The Flower of Evil” made a splash Monday on the Lido, says he has Fox Intl. Prods. to thank for getting this potentially controversial crimer off the ground.

“In Italy this film had not found a producer,” he revealed, recounting that neither pubcaster RAI nor Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset/Medusa wanted to go near the tale of the handsome Renato Vallanzasca, a lady’s man from a middle-class background who became a mobster in the 1970s.

But FIP, headed by Sanford Panitch, came to the rescue.

“Fox said, ‘We like it; we think it has international potential,’ ” Placido told Variety.

The roughly $10 million pic — which stars Kim Rossi Stewart as Vallanzasca, Paz Vega and Moritz Bleibtreu — is FIP’s first Italian foray. “Vallanzasca” is being sold by Fortissimo Films.

Fox will release the pic on Dec. 17 in Italy, gunning for gangbuster holiday biz.

Vallanzasca’s numerous kidnappings, murders and successful jailbreaks made him a quasi-mythical Italian figure, which means moralists in Italy have raised concerns over the movie.

And even Placido initially had his doubts. “Since I am a former priest, and also a former cop, at first I didn’t want to make this film,” he said.

It was really Rossi Stewart who talked Placido into it.

“Kim had a more romantic notion (of Vallanzasca), and he really wanted to take this voyage inside the darkness of a criminal mind, so I relented,” he recounted.

Rossi Stewart spent time with Vallanzasca, who was recently granted work-release after 36 years behind bars.

“I think it’s the first time a movie has been made about a criminal, whom the director and the actor get to take out for a pizza,” joked Placido, who called Vallanzasca “a piece of Italian criminal history.”

In terms of storytelling, Placido said the real challenge was to unfold the events in a style that harked back to 1970s Italian gangster movies, “but with a stronger emotional core.”

As for the morals of this movie, Placido said, “We understand the pain of Vallanzasca’s victims; but we also understand his atonement.”