French-Tunisian financier Tarak Ben Ammar is reportedly in advanced talks to acquire a majority stake in Italian independent distributor Eagle Pictures.

The Milan and Rome based company - operated by Ciro and Steffano Dammicco - is one of Italy's top five independent distributors and was responsible for the massive 2004 rollout of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, for which Italy as one of the top grossing territories.

Currently the Dammicco's own 38% of the company, while 13.7% is in the hands of Interbanca, with the remaining 26% held by Bs Private Equity.

While Eagle Pictures would not comment on the deal on Monday - Italy's leading financial paper the Sole 24 Ore said that a deal was likely to be concluded by Christmas.

Eagle Pictures current distribution credits include Brian De Palma's Venice Silver Lion winner Redacted and the company has been moderately active in film production after 2004's The Lazarus Child starring Andy Garcia.

Its local graffiti themed film Scrivilo Sui Muri (Write it on Walls), produced by Eagle, is currently in cinemas.

Eagle ranks fourth nationally among independent distributors and Ben Ammar's interest is likely to stem from an increasing interest in distribution in Italy.

And, as advisor to Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset network - Ben Ammar's name is often mentioned in cinema and production circles.

At the same time, Ben Ammar is reportedly expressing interest in obtaining a greater stake in Lux Vide - a Rome-based film and quality TV independent producer, which focuses on catholic and historical themed- projects and in which Ben Ammar already has a 24% interest.

Lux Vide produced the 2006 TV biopic (Rai/CBS co-production) of Pope John Paul II starring Jon Voight and is currently producing a film on the life of Opus Dei founder Jose Escriva de Balaguer. The project has remained top secret since its announcement earlier this year.