Variety reports that Italy’s RAI Cinema has acquired all Italian rights to Roman Polanski’s historical tentpole Pompei set against the backdrop of the Mt. Vesuvius eruption, and Spain’s new Ciudad de la Luz studios is signed as the Roman-era thriller’s main production hub.
Following a fierce bidding war with Medusa, RAI plunked down a handsome sum said to be in $10-15 million range for Pompeii, which has a projected $130 million budget.
Summit Entertainment has also recently come on board to handle worldwide sales, excluding one or two European territories, besides Italy. Pathe Distribution is in negotiations to take French rights.
The film has a projected August start with plans for a five month shoot.
Polanski, Benmussa and Sarde in March dispatched set designer Allan Starski to scout the real Pompeii archeological site in Italy and view Roman artifacts in the nearby Naples Archeological Museum. Starski and his assistants on their visit drew sketches and measured columns and mosaics.
But while Italy’s Campania region film commission is proposing incentives to lure the “Pompeii” production to lens on site, 90% of the shoot is expected to be done on Spanish soundstages, backlots and locations. Plus, Polanski has said this film will be big on CGI effects.
Screenwriter Robert Harris and Polanski are putting the final touches to the screenplay draft of Pompeii, which adapts Harris’ eponymous period tale of the famously catastrophic volcanic eruption.
“Pompeii” will tap an A-list Hollywood star to play the lead role of Marco Attilio Primo, a young Roman engineer sent to Pompeii in A.D.79, just days before the devastating eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.
Several European actresses, including a top Italian actress, are under consideration for the lead female role.