The Italian Almanac

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Woody Allen

Shooting Stars

After much anticipation, gossip and hearsay, Woody Allen is poised to launch production on his new Rome feature, receiving an official send-off from the mayor of Rome who gave the filmmaker the city's token of appreciation. To the delight of onlookers, Mayor Gianni Alemanno presented Allen with a statuette of the Eternal City's Capitoline Wolf, wishing him well in the upcoming production of The Bop Decameron, scheduled to begin shooting July 11.

The star-studded cast features Alec Baldwin, Penelope Cruz, Judy Davis, Roberto Benigni and Woody Allen himself, appearing on screen for the first time since his 2006 film Scoop. "There just happened to be a part that I could play," said Allen, 75. "I can't play the love interest anymore, which is tremendously frustrating". Such roles might be slated for starlets Ellen Page, famous for her starring spot in the offbeat comedy Juno, and indie darling Greta Gerwig, also signed to the film. Jesse Eisenberg, known for his 2010 performance as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, is also in the cast.

Allen's film is alleged to be a 21st-century take on Giovanni Boccaccio's medieval collection of erotic love tales called The Decameron, scandalous in their time for placing revered public figures and clergy in compromising situations. Allen's version will consist of "various tales interwoven", he said, one of which involves his own character who travels to Rome with his wife "because our daughter is going to marry an Italian boy that she met there, and we go over to meet him and meet his family, and what ensues".

Italian cast members include Antonio Albanese, Fabio Armiliato, Alessandra Mastronardi, Ornella Muti, Flavio Parenti, Riccardo Scamarcio and Alessandro Tiberi. "All the parts are quite significant," said Allen. "There are no cameos". The cult US director, whose most critically acclaimed work has been based in his native New York, has not worked in Italy since 1996's Everyone Says I Love You, part of which was shot in Venice. The Bop Decameron will be Allen's first film set in Rome, where he has been spotted scouting locations for days.

The Decameron has inspired a number of films including Pier Paolo Pasolini's 1971 adaptation by the same name, as well as the 1962 four-part film Boccaccio '70, directed by Federico Fellini, Vittorio De Sica, Mario Monicelli and Luchino Visconti.