‘The Crown’ Star Josh O’Connor, Isabella Rossellini Set for Alice Rohrwacher’s ‘La Chimera’ (EXCLUSIVE)

La Chimera/Rohrwacher
Simona Papallona/Courtesy Tempesta

Emmy-winning “The Crown” star Josh O’Connor will be the protagonist of Italian auteur Alice Rohrwacher’s next film “La Chimera,” which is set in the world of archeological looting and is currently shooting in and around Southern Tuscany.

O’Connor, who in “The Crown” played the young Prince Charles, in “La Chimera” is playing a young British archeologist named Arthur who gets involved in an international network of stolen Etruscan artifacts during the 1980s.

Also starring in “La Chimera,” which can be loosely translated as “The Unrealizable Dream,” are Isabella Rossellini as a retired opera singer; Brazil’s Carol Duarte (“The Invisible Life”) who plays another non-Italian woman who intersects with Arthur; Alba Rohrwacher as an international artifacts trafficker; and Vincenzo Nemolato (“Martin Eden”) who plays one of the “tombaroli,” literally grave robbers, as artifacts thieves are known in Italy.

“‘La Chimera’ is the story of a young English archaeologist who gets involved in the underground world of the ‘tombaroli,’ the nocturnal raiders of Etruscan tombs,” the director said in a statement.

Rohrwacher added that the film “is the final piece of a triptych on territory that I started with ‘The Wonders’ and which poses a central question: what to do with the past?”

“Is the past merely a lost world, or does it intimately concern our present?,” Rohrwacher asks.

“The Wonders,” which screened in Competition in 2014 at Cannes, winning the Grand Prix, was followed in 2018 by “Happy as Lazzaro” that also launched from the Croisette where it scooped the award for best screenplay. In 2019 Rohrwacher served on the Cannes main jury.

“It’s a trilogy on Italian identity,” Rohrwacher’s producer Carlo Cresto Dina told Variety, noting that “from its inception, to complete her trilogy Alice thought of having a non-Italian protagonist who in a way represents an outside perspective on us [Italians].”

Cresto Dina said that though O’Connor is best known for “The Crown” he and Rohrwacher liked him especially for his role as a young sheep farmer in Yorkshire in Francis Lee’s “God’s Own Country.”

O’Connor has been doing quite a bit of prep for “La Chimera,” working with an acting coach to learn Italian and is now “perfectly integrated in the film’s machine,” the producer added.

Cresto Dina underlined that “La Chimera” re-unites Rohrwacher with several longtime collaborators including French DOP Hélène Louvart (“The Lost Daughter”); editor Nelly Quettier (“Annette”); production designer production designer Emita Frigato, costume designer Loredana Buscemi, and line producer Giorgio Gasparini.

The casting was curated by Chiara Polizzi and Fiona Weir. The acting coach is Tatiana Lepore.

“They are not mere collaborators, but creators of a [production] process,” said Cresto Dina, noting that this process “takes lots of energy and resources” and that “La Chimera” involves a lengthy preparation and a long, twelve week, shoot.

The film, which is divided between a winter segment and a summer one, is being filmed in two separate schedules. Cameras are now rolling on the winter component through the end of February; then filming will resume in August in Italy, but the shoot will also travel to Switzerland. Pic is set for delivery in 2023.

As on all Rohrwacher’s previous films, Carlo Cresto-Dina’s Tempesta is the lead production outfit with backing from RAI Cinema, in coproduction with Amka Films (Switzerland) and Ad Vitam Production (France) in partnership with Arte France Cinema, Canal Plus, Ciné Plus, and RSI/SSR SRG (Switzerland). Ad Vitam will  distribute in France.

Cresto Dina underlined that RAI Cinema’s substantial contribution to the undisclosed budget of “La Chimera” has been crucial. Pic is also supported by France’s CNC Cinéma du Monde fund and the Federal Office of Culture in Switzerland.

Executive producers are Eli Bush, Rich Klubeck, Manuela Melissano, Alexandra Henochsberg, Pierre-François Piet and Michael Weber. The Match Factory will handle international sales.

 Alice Rohrwacher is represented by UTA in the U.S.