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‘Bond 25’ Gears Up for Shoot in Matera, in Southern Italy (EXCLUSIVE)

Casting for the new James Bond movie is still under way, but a prominent part is set to be played by the ancient southern Italian town of Matera, Variety has learned.

The town of 60,000 people will provide the setting for what is expected to become “Bond 25’s” prologue action sequence, similar to “Spectre’s” opening segment in Mexico City during Day of the Dead celebrations, insiders say. Preparations to accommodate an estimated 500 production people for the shoot, which is expected to take place in late July, are already underway. Matera’s prehistoric whitewashed caves also provided the backdrops for the Jerusalem set of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”

Italy has been featured frequently in the Bond franchise, most recently in “Spectre,” which boasted a high-speed chase along the river Tiber in Rome, among other scenes. The opening scene of “Quantum of Solace” started with a car chase along Lake Garda and then segued to Siena during the Palio horse race.

Line producer Enzo Sisti, who is handling the Italian leg of the “Bond 25” shoot, confirmed that a “big production is coming to Matera” but declined to confirm that it is the next, as-yet-untitled Bond outing. Eon Productions, which is producing “Bond 25” with MGM, did not respond to a request for comment.

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Following Gibson’s 2004 “Passion,” Matera hosted portions of MGM’s “Ben Hur” and Warner Bros.’ “Wonder Woman.” The town is a Unesco World Heritage site and one of this year’s Capitals of Culture designated by the European Union.

“Bond 25” will be able to tap into Italy’s tax credits, which cover 30% of eligible production costs, with a €20 million ($22.7 million) cap, and provide immediate cash-back benefits as soon as cameras start rolling.

Daniel Craig returns as 007 in the new Bond installment, which will be directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga. The film’s release date was recently changed from Feb. 14 to April 8, 2020.

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