Netflix Opens Rome Office, Ramps Up Italian Slate Headlined by ‘The Leopard’ Series

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Netflix on Friday officially opened its Italian base in Rome, in a classy neoclassical building near the iconic Via Veneto, and announced a substantial slate of originals that stand as testament to what co-CEO Reed Hastings called the streaming giant’s “growing business in Italy.”

“The breadth and variety of our Italian slate perfectly represents our ambitions,” said Hastings, who took the stage at the presentation’s conclusion. Hastings took the opportunity to note how pleased he is that Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Hand of God,” which Netflix produced, scooped top honors at Italy’s David di Donatello Awards, the country’s top film prizes, earlier this week.

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Netflix’s new Italian slate is headlined by a high-end English-language series adaptation of “The Leopard,” the classic Sicily-set novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. It’s a historical tapestry with elements comparable to “Downton Abbey” or “The Crown” and clear aspirations to make a global mark.

“The novel has some narrative threads involving family and sensuality that are unexplored and extremely timely,” said Eleonora Andreatta, known as Tinny, who heads Netflix’s Italian original series unit.

British director Tom Shankland, whose credits include Netflix’s true crime series “The Serpent,” will be the lead director on what is being described as a modern take on the Sicilian saga, which was famously adapted into a film (pictured) by Luchino Visconti and starring Claudia Cardinale, Alain Delon and Burt Lancaster. The film won the 1963 Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

Two Italian helmers, whose names are being kept under wraps, will share directing duties on the show with Shankland.

Shankland, speaking excellent Italian, said that both “The Leopard” and Sicily played an important part in his childhood, since his father, who was a professor of Italian in the U.K., adored the novel and took the family to visit the island where it is set.

He called the novelist Lampedusa’s voice “very modern, full of irony and sensuality, and psychology, adding that “We want to cast a modern eye on this story from the past.”

“Like all classics, ‘The Leopard’ speaks in different ways to different generations,” Shankland noted.

“It talks about this patriarchal man [a 19th-century Sicilian nobleman, the Prince of Salina, caught in the midst of civil war and revolution] but there are also some very complex female characters and we want to depict their point-of-view and struggles that are very pertinent today,” the director added.

“We have the opportunity to make a show that is both for an Italian and international audience, because the themes are universal,” Shankland underlined.

The series inspired by “The Leopard” is penned by Richard Warlow, who previously worked with Shankland on “The Serpent.” Italy’s expanding Indiana Production shingle is producing the show in tandem with Moonage Pictures, the U.K. shingle headed by the producers behind “Peaky Blinders.”

Published posthumously in 1958, “The Leopard” chronicles the changes in Sicilian life and society during the 19th century unification of Italy known as the Risorgimento. It became the top-selling novel in modern Italian literature of its day, translated into more than 40 different languages.

Other highlights of Netflix’s new Italian series slate comprise an Italian adaptation of U.K. series “Gold Digger,” which was first produced in Britain for the BBC and distributed by ITV. The Italian redo is working-titled “Inganno” and is being made by ITV-owned Rome-based company Cattleya, the shingle behind “Gomorrah.” The show will depict the passionate and turbulent relationship between an older woman and a man who is half her age, against the backdrop of how the affair disrupts Italian social and family norms.

Here are other highlights of new Netflix Italian original series:

— “Lotto Gang” (Working Title / BIM Produzione and Feltrinelli Originals): Loosely based on the true story of the biggest lottery scam in Italian history, “Lotto Gang” follows a group of antiheroes on a heist in the outskirts of Milan in the mid-1990s. The show combines action and Italian comedy tropes.

— New animated series by Italian graphic novelist Zerocalcare (Movimenti Production and Bao Publishing). The new untitled show follows Zerocalcare’s “Tear Along The Dotted Line,” which has been a local hit.

— “I Hate Christmas” (Fremantle’s Lux Vide). Pilar Fogliati, who made a splash on RAI’s medical drama “Cuori,” stars in Netflix’s first Italian Christmas series, a comedy about a young woman looking for love.

Below are highlights of the new Netflix Italian original films:

— “Robbing Mussolini” (Bibi Film): Heist movie set in 1945 Milan, involving a treasure chest that Benito Mussolini buried somewhere in the center of the city before being killed. Pic is directed by Renato de Maria (“The Obscene Life”) and stars Pietro Castellitto (“Freaks Out”), Matilda De Angelis (“The Undoing”) and Isabella Ferrari.

— “My Name is Vendetta” (Colorado Film): A fast-paced action, survival and revenge film set in Northern Italy. Written and directed by Cosimo Gomez (“Ugly Nasty People”) and toplining Alessandro Gassman “Though Shalt Not Hate.”

— “Love & Gelato” (HT Film): The adventures and misadventures of Lina, a young American in search of herself, her roots in a glittering Rome, and of course a lot of gelato. Written and directed by U.S. director Brandon Camp who directed the 2018 “Benji” reboot produced by Blumhouse.

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