Frazier star Kelsey Grammer and Aidan Quinn have signed to star in Benedict Arnold, which at $18m, is one of the most expensive TV movies of the year. It is produced by ambitious Italian venture DeAngelis Group in association with America's A&E Network.

The picture, which is to be directed by Mikael Salomon is the story of the US general who infamously switched sides during the American War of Independence, having fallen in love with a British woman. Production will take place in Ireland with Gretchen Moll or Sophia Myles being lined up to play the role of love interest Peggy. International sales are handled by Freemantle Entertainment (formerly Pearson).

Finance is through German fund Victory Media Group, which is bankrolling most other productions on DeAngelis prestige slate.

Feature director Francesca Archibugi is now in production on Renzo & Lucia, a $7m Italian-language romance set in the seventeenth century. It is set up as a two-part mini-series or a 100 minute theatrical feature. A host of Italian stars including Stefano Dionisi, Laura Morante and Stefania Sandrelli have supporting parts while newcomers Stefano Scandaletti and Michaela Mallai take the title roles. Renzo is Archibugi's first TV picture. DeAngelis is handling world sales, and a sale to Mediaset is assured with Mediatrade on-board as a co-producer..

"With our budgets and commitment to quality, we are very interesting to feature directors, especially European directors," said DeAngelis' spokesman Gemma Pudney. Its recent productions have seen other feature-level talent such as Uli Edel, Ricardo Tognazi and Carlo Carlei deliver period piece Caesar (which had a $20m budget), The Good Popes ($12m) and Ferrari ($15m). "The European market for TV-movies and mini-series is still very vibrant, notably in Italy, France and Germany."

Also new on DeAngelis' sales and production slates are Encantando a $1.5m Cuba-set sexy drama due for theatrical release this summer; Elisa, a $24m historical drama series about forbidden love between an aristocrat and a servant girl; and Ocean Drive, a 97-part beach action series.