Actor-writer-director Michele Placido is exploring the true story of a corrupt cardinal for a series he’s developing called “Bad Bankers.”
Placido is at the Venice Film Festival to promote Netflix’s first Italian original, “Suburra, the Series.” The show is a crime thriller set primarily in Rome that mixes in elements of the Catholic Church, the government and organized crime. The action will take place in New York, London and Italy.
Placido said “Bad Bankers” will revolve around Monsignor Marcinkus, an American archbishop who presided over the Vatican Bank from 1971 to 1989. Marcinkus was embroiled in the notorious bank crash of Banco Ambrosiano, which led to the 1982 suicide of its chairman, Roberto Calvi.
“What Marcinkus did caused serious problems in Italy – he was laundering mafia money and invested it in drugs and guns – but he was never prosecuted because he was a citizen of the Vatican,” said Placido, adding that Marcinkus was also close to U.S. President Richard M. Nixon. Marcinkus previously served as inspiration for the character of Archbishop Gilday in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather, Part III.”
Placido said he was hoping to work with Netflix again in the future following “Suburra,” for which he directed the first two episodes. “Netflix is a game-changer in Italy. They gave me a tremendous freedom to cast actors who are not big names – some were even unknown – as long as they fit the roles,” said Placido.
“It was the first time in my career that I was given carte blanche. There is so much self-censorship going in the TV production because of the weight of Catholicism. We can’t tell stories so freely when we work with a public broadcaster,” said Placido.
Italian pubcaster Rai did come on board “Suburra,” however, and picked up second window rights to the show, which is produced by Cattleya.
Placido said Netflix’s involvement encouraged key local partners like Rai to board “Suburra,” and he added that Rai’s acquisition of the series marked a milestone. “With ‘Suburra,’ Rai will be paving the way for other public broadcasters in Italy and encourage them to give TV creators and producers more freedom to deliver daring, thought-provoking series,” said Placido.
The actor-director said he was first approached by Netflix because “they liked ‘Vallanzasca,'” which he directed in 2011.
A prequel to Stefano Sollima’s “Suburra,” Netflix’s “Suburra, the Series,” written by Daniele Cesarano and Barbara Petroni, world premiered at the Venice Film Festival ahead its launch on the streaming service Oct. 6.