Paolo Sorrentino Casts Toni Servillo to Play Silvio Berlusconi

ROME – Oscar-winning director Paolo Sorrentino is forging ahead with his film about Silvio Berlusconi, with actor Toni Servillo (“The Great Beauty”) now cast to play the Italian media tycoon-turned-prime minister.

The tentative plan is for the Italian-language pic about Berlusconi and his inner circle to start shooting in Italy this summer. Further casting is underway. Sorrentino is finishing the screenplay, a representative for the director said.

Servillo has played a former Italian premier for Sorrentino in the past: He portrayed the late seven-time Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, who was a symbol of postwar Italy, in the director’s “Il Divo.” More recently, Servillo (pictured, right) appeared as the decadent writer at the center of the Oscar-winning film “The Great Beauty.”

The Berlusconi film’s working title is “Loro,” which translates as “Them” and is a homonym with “L’oro,” which means “gold.”

It will be produced by Indigo Film, the Rome shingle that has made all of Sorrentino’s movies. But “Loro” is not proving easy to finance, sources say, given that Berlusconi-controlled Medusa, which co-financed “The Great Beauty” and Sorrentino’s “Youth,” will not be on board for this one.

Talks are underway with several potential partners, one of which could be Amazon according to Italian industry insiders. Sorrentino’s rep did not comment on this possibility. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request to confirm.

Berlusconi, 80, is gradually exiting Italy’s political arena after more than two decades in the spotlight during which he served four times as prime minister and defined an era in the country’s life. He had open-heart surgery last year and last August signed a deal to sell his A.C. Milan soccer team, a symbol of his success, to a Chinese consortium, though that deal has yet to close.

“Loro” is expected to be a depiction of Berlusconi’s world, but not purely as a scathing critique. It will follow Sorrentino’s shoot of the successful first season of “The Young Pope,” co-produced by Sky, HBO and Canal Plus, starring Jude Law as a morally tormented American pontiff.

Sorrentino has written the screenplays for a second season of the show, for which Sky and HBO are expected to sign up again as producers. But the new season has not been greenlit yet, possibly because Canal Plus is dragging its feet, according to one source.

That is why Sorrentino is free to go ahead with “Loro” if Indigo manages to come up with the financing. It should become clear after Cannes where the films stands.

“The theme of power is everywhere,” Sorrentino told Italian newspaper La Repubblica in an interview published Saturday, in which he called Berlusconi a “concentrate of non-negligible mysteries.”

Berlusconi has previously been fodder for several Italian pictures, most notably Nanni Moretti’s 2006 “The Caiman,” about a washed-up B-movie director hired to make a Berlusconi satire. The former prime minister has proved to be a tough cinematic subject. “The Caiman” played well in Italy but was not an international success.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Amanda Awards

    ‘Out Stealing Horses’ Tops Norway’s 2019 Amanda Awards

    HAUGESUND, Norway —  Hans Petter Moland’s sweeping literary adaptation “Out Stealing Horses” put in a dominant showing at Norway’s Amanda Awards on Saturday night, placing first with a collected five awards, including best Norwegian film. Celebrating its 35th edition this year, the Norwegian industry’s top film prize helped kick off the Haugesund Film Festival and [...]

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Richard Williams, 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' Animator, Dies at 86

    Renowned animator Richard Williams, best known for his work on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” died Friday at his home in Bristol, England, Variety has confirmed. He was 86. Williams was a distinguished animator, director, producer, author and teacher whose work has garnered three Oscars and three BAFTA Awards. In addition to his groundbreaking work as [...]

  • Instinct

    Locarno Film Review: 'Instinct'

    Now that “Game of Thrones” has finally reached its conclusion, releasing its gifted international ensemble into the casting wilds, will Hollywood remember just what it has in Carice van Houten? It’s not that the statuesque Dutch thesp hasn’t been consistently employed since her startling 2006 breakout in Paul Verhoeven’s “Black Book,” or even that she’s [...]

  • Good Boys Movie

    Box Office: 'Good Boys' Eyes Best Original Comedy Opening of 2019

    Universal’s “Good Boys” is surpassing expectations as it heads toward an estimated $20.8 million opening weekend at the domestic box office following $8.3 million in Friday ticket sales. That’s well above earlier estimates which placed the film in the $12 million to $15 million range, marking the first R-rated comedy to open at No. 1 [...]

  • Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Wins at

    Pedro Costa’s 'Vitalina Varela' Triumphs at Locarno Film Festival

    The 72nd Locarno Film Festival drew to a close Saturday with Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa’s dark and detached film “Vitalina Varela” coming away with several awards together with superlatives from segments of the hardcore cinephile crowd, including jury president Catherine Breillat. In announcing the Golden Leopard prize for the film, as well as best actress [...]

  • Vitalina Varela

    Locarno Film Review: 'Vitalina Varela'

    Frequently beautiful compositions and the theatrical use of a fierce kind of artifice have long been the hallmarks of Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa, regarded by a small but influential group of aesthetes as one of the great filmmakers of our era. For those in tune with his vision, the director’s films offer an exciting lesson [...]

  • Notre dame

    Locarno Film Review: 'Notre dame'

    Not to be too cynical about it, but might the recent horrific fire in Paris’ cathedral attract audiences to a film in which the gothic gem plays a major role? It’s likely a wiser marketing strategy than promoting the unrelenting silliness of Valerie Donzelli’s oh-so-kooky comedy “Notre dame,” the writer-director-star’s return to contemporary Paris following [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content