Aurelio bids Italy adieu. (Italy).
The first is $60 million sci-fi thriller "The World of Tomorrow," starring Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow. Pic will be helmed by Kerry Corman and majority-financed by De Laurentiis, with Law and Paltrow taking minor stakes.
"Jude came to me in January with a fantastic script and this incredible software invented by 29-year-old Kerry," the Rome-based producer-distributor says.
"At first I thought of Nicole Kidman for the main role, but she was busy, and when Jude proposed Paltrow I was very happy. In Cannes I signed the contracts with the actors, who were so interested in the project that they decided to become partners," he says.
The film, set in the 1930s, stars Paltrow as a journalist at the premiere of "Snow White" at New York's Radio City Music Hall. Shooting begins Feb. 16.
De Laurentiis, 53, the nephew of L.A.-based producer Dino De Laurentiis, is one of the most successful independent producers in Italy, where his Christmas pics--most of them starring comic duo Christian De Sica and Massimo Boldi --have grossed more than $700 million during the last 25 years.
Most of the more than 60 movies (including the Christmas pics) he's produced have been aimed at the Italian market. In the U.S., he produced George Cosmatos' "Leviathan" in 1989.
His second "big, extraordinary project" is a big-budget movie "with American director, actors and script writers," based on a project written by Valerio Manfredi, the Italian archaeologist whose trilogy on Alexander the Great inspired Baz Luhrmann's movie.
"A U.S. major would spend $200 million for such a movie; I hope to limit my budget to $80 million," De Laurentiis says, refusing to reveal more about the project. "I am reading the last pages of Manfredi's project ... It will be a real bombshell!" he adds.
De Laurentiis' American projects also include the remake of his most successful Christmas films. "A movie such as 1983's `Christmas Holidays,' which had four sequels in Italy, could be transformed for the American audience quite easily," he says.
He decided to work on his U.S. projects for two reasons: His son is studying cinema production in California, and Italy's market is proving increasingly difficult.
De Laurentiis, who is president of Italian producers union UNPF and international producers association FIAPF, says that because of piracy, poor state funding and reduced budgets at national broadcasters, "It is no longer practical to produce just for the Italian market.
"As president of UNPF and FIAPF, I suggest that Italy's government join forces with France, Germany and Spain. The four major non-English-speaking Euro territories should unify legislation and incentives for the film industry," he tells Variety.
"We could finally co-produce with other European film producers for a 200 million people territory, considering it as a single territory where rights to audiovisual products are not split by country. This would allow real creative co-productions, not only financial ones, and instead of having each year 100 medium-budget movies in Italy, 100 in Germany, 100 in France and Spain, we could produce 150 higher-budget, better European films," he says. "The industry is ready for this."