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Italy’s Leone Group, Rai Cinema Board Lionsgate’s ‘Soldado’ (EXCLUSIVE)

ROME — Italy’s Leone Film Group and Rai Cinema are linking up with Lionsgate on Mexico-set thriller “Soldado,” a follow-up of sorts to Denis Villeneuve’s “Sicario,” to be directed by Italian helmer Stefano Sollima with Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin attached to star.

Under the agreement Leone and Rai Cinema will jointly handle theatrical distribution in Italy of “Soldado,” which is now set to start shooting in coming weeks in New Mexico. Rai Cinema is the theatrical distribution arm of Italian pubcaster Rai. Leone Film Group is a prominent Italian distributor which has an output deal with Lionsgate.

“We are proud to be contributing to an important Italian genre-movie director making a big international movie in the U.S. with A-list stars,” said Rai Cinema Managing Director Paolo Del Brocco.

Del Brocco added that “Soldado” is “proof that Italian directors can make Hollywood movies,” after Gabriele Muccino directed two films, “The Pursuit of Happyness” (2006) and “Seven Pounds” (2008) with Will Smith.

The Rai Cinema chief also noted that Rai Cinema has co-financed Sollima’s previous two feature films,  “A.C.A.B.,” and  contemporary Rome-set mob drama “Suburra,” both produced by Cattleya.

Sollima recently made an international splash helming Sky’s naturalistic Neapolitan mob mini-series “Gomorrah,” which debuted positively last month in the U.S. on SundanceTV. The show is Italy’s all-time top TV export.

Initially billed as “Sicario 2,” “Soldado” has been described by Sollima in a recent interview as “absolutely a standalone movie —  a completely different story, with just two of the characters that you met in ‘Sicario,'” he told Britain’s Independent newspaper.

Those two recurring characters would be the hitman played by Del Toro and the CIA officer, Matt Graves, played by Brolin.

The “Soldado” script is by U.S. screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, who also penned “Sicario.”

Del Brocco underlined that Rai Cinema is now gradually broadening its production scope beyond Italian cinema, which in recent years received the bulk of its resources. “We need to internationalize step-by-step,” he said, rather than “just pre-buying some titles.”

The Rai Cinema chief said his team is now busy reading international scripts and “making a greater effort to board and even originate high-profile European and international projects.”

Besides “Soldado,” other notable international projects in advanced stages that Rai Cinema has boarded as a co-producer include:

— “Dalida,” a biopic being produced by Pathe Films of the popular 1960s Italian-French singer. It’s being directed by Lisa Azuelos, with Italian actress Sveva Alviti playing the lead.

— “The Leisure Seeker,” Italian director Paolo Virzi’s English-language debut, a road movie toplining Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland, produced by Italy’s Indiana Production. Shooting is underway in the U.S.

— “Work Without Author,” a psychological thriller by German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (“The Lives of Others”). Produced by Beta Cinema, it’s in final stages of shooting.

 

 

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