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‘Perfect Strangers’ Director Paolo Genovese Set for U.S. Debut (EXCLUSIVE)

Italian director Paolo Genovese, whose concept movie “Perfect Strangers” involving smartphones and personal secrets is making a global splash, is set to make his English-language debut with “The First Day of My Life,” a New York-set suicide dramedy with echoes of Frank Capra’s classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Based on Genovese’s novel of the same title, which has become a bestseller in Italy, “The First Day of My Life” revolves around four characters on the brink of taking their lives who make a pact with a stranger with supernatural powers. The mystery man gives them a chance to travel forward in time to see for a week how their friends and relatives would react to their deaths and what the world would be like without them. On the last day of the week, the four potential suicides have the option of deciding whether whether to live or jump off the Manhattan Bridge.

The four characters are Emily, a former Olympic gymnast now in a wheelchair; Aretha, a police officer with a painful past; Napoleon, a successful New York stage personality; and Daniel, a child star in the American advertising world. 

“It’s almost like a survival manual,” said Genovese, speaking of his new project at the Filming Italy Sardinia Festival. “I needed to write something joyful – even though it’s about suicide – something that gives a sense to life. I think it’s something that people need.”

Genovese is now in advanced development on the project, which he plans to shoot in English with American actors. He recently spent two months in New York working on the screenplay and scouting locations. 

Talks are underway for Leone Film Group and Medusa, the director’s regular producers, to mount “The First Day of My Life” as an Italy/U.S. co-production with an as-yet-unspecified U.S. partner, Genovese said. It will be dubbed into Italian for the Italian market.

Though casting is still being decided, Genovese said he would like to draw “on the wonderful talent pool of American actors who appear in U.S. TV series even though they may not necessarily be known yet to Italian audiences.”

Perfect Strangers,” which revolves around a circle of friends who decide to bare their secrets at a dinner by exposing the contents of their smartphones for all to see, has been remade in several languages after grossing more than $16 million in 2016 at the Italian box office. A Spanish version directed by Alex de la Iglesia has earned almost $26 million at the local box office this year. A Mexican adaptation has just been announced, to be directed by Manolo Caro (“La Casa de las Flores”). Genovese said plans for an adaptation in the U.S., where the rights were sold to The Weinstein Company, are “on hold.”

The original Italian version of “Perfect Strangers” is performing well at the Chinese box office, where it opened at No. 5 in the fourth frame in May and has since pulled in more than $8.5 million, the best result for an Italian movie in China since Giuseppe Tornatore’s “Cinema Paradiso.”

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