LONDON – London-based film producer Demian Gregory has acquired exclusive film and TV rights for the world to “The Leopard,” the classic Italian novel that inspired Luchino Visconti’s 1963 “The Leopard,” starring Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale and for some – Martin Scorsese, for example – one of the greatest films ever made.
To be produced by Gregory’s U.K.-based Agathae Films, the novel is being re-imagined as a theatrical feature film, “The Last Leopard.”
Written by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and named by The Observer as one of the 10 best historical novels ever, “The Leopard” has sold over 10 million copies since its posthumous publication in 1958.
“The Last Leopard’s” screenplay, which is now being written, includes parts of the novel that were not originally published but were found by the author’s estate over the years. The film will also tap other unpublished material.
Per Gregory, the film’s director, screenwriter, cast and other elements will be announced shortly. Deal is an outright purchase, not an option. Gregory said. The television rights, including to a serial, will be made available, he added.
Set between 1860 and 1882, with a 1910 postscript, the book centers on a Sicilian nobleman, Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina, caught in the turmoil of Italy’s Risorgimiento – Garibaldi’s revolution, Italy’s unification – and confronting both historical change and his own mortality.
Depicting the luxury and fading fortunes of a Sicilian aristocracy as the Risorgimento set in, the novel has a sense of historical change – summed up by Delon’s character that “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.”
This appealed to Visconti’s Marxist aristocrat sensibility and has been championed by ruling regimes evolving from dictatorship to democracy over much of the contemporary developing world. “The Leopard” is, in that sense, contemporary.
Initially rejected by a number of leading publishers, “The Leopard” was published a year after the author’s death. It found immediate international success.
“ ‘The Leopard’ was very forward for his time, so much so that its themes are still very relevant today,” said Gregory.
He added: “Capturing the dramatic sweep and the aesthetic culture of 1860’s Sicily, in all its decadent beauty, with a breath of modern prospective is an ambitious challenge.”
Production will take place in Sicily, overseen by line-producer Isabella Arnaud, who commented: “The strength of this venture is being able to repropose one of the greatest treasures of literature to modern audiences with new interpretations.”
Agathae Films is formed by Gregory and backed by a private equity fund.