Italy’s storied Titanus studio, producers of myriad golden era Cinema Italiano works, is getting a reboot and reviving its production side with several projects in development, including a contemporary sequel of Dario Argento’s supernatural chiller “Phenomena.”
Established in 1904 by Gustavo Lombardo, Titanus was a true Italian major, which during the 1960s forged a partnership with MGM. They slowed down considerably from the mid-1960s onwards after Luchino Visconti’s lavish Sicily-set costumer “The Leopard” (1963), starring Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale and Alain Delon, went way over budget. Since the mid-1980s the studio’s output has been on a much smaller scale, and primarily for TV.
Now led by former Disney Italy marketing chief Stefano Bethlen, who is Titanus’ general manager, the company – which has a 400-title library comprising early works by Italian masters such as Federico Fellini, and Visconti classics, alongside plenty of genre fare – is ramping up production activity “in two separate strands: legacy, which is based on our library IPs and other vintage properties that we acquire, and originals,” said Bethlen.
On the legacy side, Titanus has teamed up with Los Angeles-based company The Exchange, founded and headed by veteran sales executive Brian O’Shea, to co-develop a U.S. film loosely based on “Phenomena,” the cult Argento chiller, which starred Jennifer Connelly as the daughter of a movie star who arrives in a country called Swiss Transylvania to attend an exclusive girls school where pupils are being targeted by a vicious killer.
Bethlen, speaking at Rome’s MIA market, where the rebooted Titanus was unveiled to the international industry, said Titanus has teamed up with The Exchange to co-develop an adaptation of the “Phenomena” IP into “an American film with a U.S. director and U.S. and international talents,” the idea being “to make a present-day sequel rather than a remake.” The Exchange will be the “Phenomena” project’s lead, with Titanus holding an equity stake.
The rebooted Titanus legacy project in the most advanced state is a TV series that mines a 1970s Italian IP titled “Piedone,” which is a series of hit films starring Bud Spencer, the burly Italian actor who starred in dozens of hit genre movies, as a police inspector Rizzo nicknamed “Flatfoot.”
Titanus has teamed up with Fremantle-owned Wildside and Sky Studios on the “Piedone” series, which is being penned by Peppe Fiore (“The King,” “The Young Pope”) and “Gomorrah” star Salvatore Esposito, who is in advanced talks to star as the show’s lead.
Bethlen said that the “Piedone” skein is not a remake but rather a present-day sequel in which the new protagonist knew inspector Rizzo, “and will in some way personify him.”
On the originals side, Titanus is developing a crime series titled “Ludwig,” co-written by Titanus creative producer Jacopo Sonnino. The dark “Ludwig” show is based on the real story of serial killers Wolfgang Abel and Marco Furlan, who operated a neo-Nazi group called Ludwig that during the 1980s perpetrated a dozen murders, targeting homosexuals, substance abusers, a prostitute and two friars, among other victims.
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