Country Focus: Italy
Ben Hur, Iron Man and James Bond meet up in Italy
by Camillo De Marco
- James Bond's Aston Martin arrives in Cinecittà. It was Dario Franceschini, the Minister for Arts and Culture, who proudly announced it in November. He also pointed out the launch of international investments of 150 million euros, thanks to the Art Bonus decree, which introduced an adjustment to the tax subsidies on cinema. “An extraordinary result” commented the minister. “Italy continues to attract and charm the world of cinema, with the unique locations it offers in cities and hamlets as well as the Cinecittà studios, which after a dark spell, are once again hosting international productions of the highest level.”
Six months earlier, the Art Bonus decree had intervened on the Tax Credit Cinema to attract foreign investments. The new rules have increased the fund for tax subsidies to cinema from 110 to 115 million euros. More importantly, they have raised the maximum limit of the tax credit for the executive production and technical industries that produce foreign films (or part of them) in Italy from 5 to 10 million euros per production company.
Filming for the 24th episode of the 007 saga, Spectre, have begun in Rome's EUR on February 19th 2015, lasting a total of four weeks. Produced by Metro Goldwyn Mayer and Columbia Pictures and once again signed by British director Sam Mendes, it will star Daniel Craig as the secret agent, Monica Bellucci and the ever-changing Christopher Waltz.
Metro Goldwyn Mayer also returned to Cinecittà studios last April for the remake of the historical Ben Hur, the 11-Oscar winning feature from 1959. Director Timur Bekmambetov rebuilt the majestic Ben Hur Palace in the Studio 5, the largest studio as well as Fellini's favourite, while thelegendary chariot race was shot in the backlot of the Cinecittà World park, featuring 80 horses and 12 thousand extras. Written by Keith Clarke (The Way Back) and revised by John Ridley (Oscar winner for Twelve Years a Slave [+see also:
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film profile]), the film sees Jack Huston don the protagonist's toga, Toby Kebbell, Morgan Freeman, Olivia Cooke. The subsidies that cover the 25% of the total spent in Italy (the entire production of the film is set in the peninsula) and the participation of Cinecittà Studios and Filmmaster (both belonging to the IEG group) as executive producers entitled MGM to benefit from the maximum tax credit in relation to its budget. “We have signed important agreements, confirming that Rome and Italy as a whole are still extremely competitive on an international level in a sector that has always been strategic.” commented Giuseppe Basso, MD of Cinecittà Studios.
Before landing in Rome, Ben Hur was filmed in Matera for four weeks, and the images of Morgan Freeman on set have gone around the globe, promoting the “city of stones” similarly to when Mel Gibson filmed The Passion there. “ We started out with a successful Mexican soap-opera”, tells us Paride Leporace, at the helm of the recently founded Lucania Film Commission. “Then, we had a real hit with the film Marry Me. A follow-up to the Chinese series of the same name by Bejing Wanmei Pengrui Entartainment, it registered 670 million spectators.” After the episode set in Matera, we are setting up a project for territorial product placement in order to attract Chinese couples who wish to get married in Basilicata after seeing it on the show”. Finally, the collaboration with Enzo Sisti, an executive producer who built excellent international relations in order to produce and sustain Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Cyrus Nowrasteh and the Ben Hur kolossal.
All Roads Lead to Rome, just like the title of the comedy directed by Ella Lemhagen, starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Claudia Cardinale, Rosie Day, Paz Vega. And also Zoolander 2, the much awaited sequel of the comedy directed by Ben Stiller, also in the starring role, and produced by Paramount Pictures. Everest, by Baltasar Kormákur, was partly shot in Trentino- Alto Adige and in Cinecittà, and stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright.
Rome is not the only Italian city offering locations to international cinema. Valle d'Aosta hosted the filming of Avengers: Age of Ultron, the much awaited Blockbuster produced by Marvel Studios and directed by Joss Whedon for 20 days, and the spectacular Point Break, inspired by the cult film directed by Katherine Bigelow in 1991 starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves, for 30 days. Produced by Alcon Entertainment, it is directed by Ericson Core and will have its US theatrical release in December, with Warner Bros.
The filming of Point Break also passed through Apulia: Begin Again, the romantic comedy directed by young Taiwanese director Lin Yu-Hsien and produced by Phoenix Legend Film, was filmed there in April 2015. The director of the Apulia Film Commission, Daniele Basilico, comments: “Finding insititutions like ours, that not only provide financial support, but also databases to recruit professionals and service providers, location scouting and help with logistics, is a decisive factor for film productions. And Italy, aside from its unique locations, has always offered its exceptional workforce - set designers, costume designers, directors of photography - to international cinema”.
Among the foreign films supported by Tuscany's Incoming Fund we find Irumbu Kuthirai (India) by Yuvaraj Bose, an episode of the US TV show Hannibal directed by Guillermo Navarro, and, in 2015, the melodrama Second Twenty by Korean director Park Heung-shik, produced by Min Film. Over the last weeks, San Quirico d’Orcia and Celsa (Siena), Vulci and Montecalvello (Viterbo) and Rome have been the backdrop for Voice from the Stone by Erik D. Howell, featuring Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) as its protagonist.
For three weeks, the Vicenza Film Commission has supported the filming of Diminuta by Bruno Saglia, produced by Brazilian company B.O.X.X. Filmes & Entretenimento and Arteon, and starring Reynaldo Gianecchini, a known face on Brazilian TV, and Giancarlo Giannini. Campania has hosted the filming of Herogiri, a comedy/action movie produced by Surinder Films and filmed by the Indian director Rabi Kinagi,starring the bengalese star Dev. It also hosted Guy Ritchie's new, much anticipated spi-fi action comedy The Man from U.N.C.L.E, based on the MGM TV show of the same name from the Sixties, which will be released in August.