Prominent Italian producer Lorenzo Mieli has shepherded standout TV series such as “The Young Pope” and “My Brilliant Friend” as well as bringing Luca Guadagnino’s “Bones and All” to the big screen. Now he is taking his production company The Apartment to the next level by broadening its international scope.
While continuing to work with Italy’s top directors, including Guadagnino, Paolo Sorrentino, and Stefano Sollima, Mieli’s Fremantle-owned outfit is ramping up a high-caliber slate of film and TV projects, which have been announced, involving the likes of Sofia Coppola, Angelina Jolie, Pablo Larrain, Joe Wright, Florian Zeller, and “Peaky Blinders” creator Steven Knight.
Mieli, who is based in Rome, has secured Knight to work on two projects, both in pre-production: the Apple TV original series “Ferrari,” which is the biggest skein ever to be produced and shot in Italy, and Pablo Larrain’s biopic of iconic opera singer Maria Callas “Maria” with Angelina Jolie attached to play the titular character. The Apartment just produced the Jolie-directed anti-war drama “Without Blood,” which was shot in Italy and is now in post. And cameras are rolling in Rome on the high-end TV series “M” which chronicles Benito Mussolini’s rise to power, directed by Wright, who among other works, helmed Winston Churchill drama “Darkest Hour.”
“There is this sort of cosmopolitanism in the air,” says Mieli, who is becoming the Italian producer with the greatest international reach in terms of both creative vision and talent and industry connections. He calls his drive to transcend national boundaries, “the opposite of Europudding,” the trade term used for cross-border films contrived merely to tap into cross-border subsidies.
Instead, Joe Wright depicting a pivotal piece of Italian history, and Mieli shepherding Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla Presley film “Priscilla” and also the next pic by Larrain, who is from Chile, about Callas, are projects able to spark “a level of cultural originality that can spring from a dialogue between different cultures,” says Mieli who notes: “It’s different languages talking to each other.”
Mieli points out that Italian cinema was the greatest germinator of cosmopolitanism in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and even the start of the 80s (think Bernardo Bertolucci, Sergio Leone, Luchino Visconti.)
“What Italian writers and producers were up to in those days, with Hollywood on the Tiber. That was a time when Rome was at the apex of its cosmopolitanism,” says Mieli. “That’s what, on a smaller scale, I’m trying to replicate.”
Here is a rundown of the main announced projects on The Apartment’s upcoming slate:
“Ferrari” – This big-budget Apple TV series written by Steven Knight and inspired by Enzo Ferrari biography “Ferrari Rex” is to be directed by Stefano Sollima (“Sicario: Day of the Soldado,” “Without Remorse” and “Gomorrah,” the TV show). The show focuses on a critical time for the man who dedicated his life to building the fastest racing car in history. Between 1956 and 1961, deeply wounded by the death of his firstborn son, Dino, and by what he considered a betrayal by his lead driver, Juan Manuel Fangio, Ferrari rebuilt his racing team from scratch, selecting five promising rising stars of motor racing who had to compete among themselves to be chosen as the team’s lead driver. Before taking it to Apple Fremantle “financed two years of research, the purchase of the book rights, and Steve’s work,” says Mieli, who points out that: “The role I am trying to have – and in which I am supported by Fremantle – is to invest and finance, sometimes partly, in some cases entirely, some very expensive developments.” Casting of international talents is underway, with plans to start shooting “Ferrari” at the start of summer 2023 with a start of 2024 drop date.
“Priscilla” – Mieli first started working with Sofia Coppola on a series adaptation of the Edith Wharton novel “The Custom of the Country” that she is developing with A-24. “They contacted me since I’ve done lots of international co-productions,” he says. That relationship then led Mieli to become involved in “Priscilla” based on the book “Elvis and Me” by Priscilla Presley. The movie, starring Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi, is currently shooting in Toronto and “The dailies look great,” he says. “It’s a similar production structure to ‘Bones and All,'” says Mieli, who mounted the production. The production is financed by The Apartment and Sony’s Stage 6 Films. A-24 will release in the U.S.. Coppola brought in her producer Youree Henley, who is making the film with her in Toronto. They have a few weeks of shooting left.
“Maria” – Mieli is producing “Maria,” about the life of American-born Greek soprano Maria Callas, written by Steven Knight, directed by Pablo Larrain and starring Angelina Jolie. “Maria” will complete Larrain’s trilogy of female biopics after “Jackie” and “Spencer.” Mieli is co-producing with Jonas Dornbach for Komplizen Film (which also produced Spencer).
“My input is both as a creative producer, which is what I like the most: collaborating on the germination of both form and content, and also production modality,” he says. The plan is to shoot in 2023.
“Without Blood” – This Angelina Jolie-directed drama, based on a novel by Italian writer Alessandro Baricco and starring Salma Hayek Pinault and Demián Bichir, is currently being edited with plans for a 2023 release.
“M” – Joe Wright is shooting this Sky TV series adapted from Antonio Scurati’s bestselling novel “M. Son of the Century,” about the rise of Benito Mussolini with Luca Marinelli in the leading role. “Visually, it’s a mix between the original ‘Scarface’ and [the 1929 film] ‘Man With a Movie Camera’ by Dziga Vertov and British 90s rave culture,” says Mieli, who adds that the score is being done by The Chemical Brothers.
“The Baron in the Trees” – Mieli after years of pursuit has secured the rights to Italo Calvino’s classic novel, published in 1957, about a young baron who climbs a tree after a bitter argument with his father and stays there for the rest of his life. “The image I am most tied to with this story is not so much the boy in the tree; but the adult man who spends his entire life living in a tree,” he says. “The man who kept his promise; his rigor in being disobedient,” the producer explains. His plan is to turn the novel into a TV series, since “This story has a huge number of elements that can be expanded in serial form, that a movie could never do.” Mieli is still seeking the right director for this project.
“The Lehman Trilogy” – Mieli and Domenico Procacci’s Fandango are developing a high-end TV series based on the Tony Award-winning play by Stefano Massini with Florian Zeller (“The Father, “The Son”) directing. “Zeller saw the Sam Mandes adaptation and fell in love with it,” says Mieli who notes that “Florian has gone from theatre to film brilliantly, and now he will be adapting a theatre piece for a TV series.” Zeller is currently writing the screenplays. “I’m very happy he’s the one doing it, he’s another European who is now in the U.S.,” Mieli notes.