Italy's Rai Cinema is liningup a John Boorman Roman epic as part of move to bankroll a slate of Englishlanguage features, and is also backing new Italian projects from Cannesveterans Marco Bellocchio and Pupi Avati.

John Boorman is in talks todirect an adaptation of Marguerite Yourcenar's historical novel, Memoirs OfHadrian, a fictional autobiography of the Roman emperor, written as aseries of letters to his nephew, Marcus Aurelius.

Italy's Rai Cinema isproducing the film with Massimo Pacilio of Italian outfit Movieweb and GherardoPagliei's Rome-based Gam Film. Rai Cinema CEO Giancarlo Leone said the bigbudget project will also involve international partners. The film is expected to start shootingbefore the end of 2004, probably in Morocco.

The screenplay is beingwritten by Valerio Massimo Manfredi, who is also one of the writers behind BazLurhmann's Alexander The Great project.

Leone says Rai Cinema'sdecision to produce Memoirs Of Hadrian is part of the company's newdrive to finance "two or three big, international English-languageprojects" in addition to its slate of high-brow Italian pictures.

Rai Cinema is currentlyproducing, together with Rome's Cattleya, Italian director Cristina Comencini'sEuros 10m English-language drama My Right Hand, about the tumultuouslove life between Clara Wieck and Robert Schumann.

The next feature fromBellocchio, director of 2002 Cannes contender My Mother's Smile, iscalled Il Regista di Matrimoni (literally, the Director of Weddings).

Backed by Rai Cinema andproduced through Bellocchio's own Rome production company, Filmalbatros, theEuros 3m-4m film tells the story of a troubled film director who travels toSicily where he meets a friend who makes a living shooting videos at weddings.

In the meantime, Rai Cinemais also backing a new film by Pupi Avati, whose last feature, The HeartElsewhere, screened in competition in Cannes last year.

Avati's film, entitled MaQuando Arrivano le Ragazze' (literally, When are the girls coming') is acontemporary comedy revolving around a group of young jazz musicians. Avati,who is also the president of Cinecitta' Holding, is currently shooting theEuros 3.5m film in Rome and Bologna, in the north of Italy.