Neil Jordan's Borgia may have failed to start shooting, but the Irish director appears to have found another European epic, Odysseus' Return.
Michael Kuhn's London-based production company is understood to be finalising a deal to board the production, which is set up with producer Uberto Pasolini, best known for The Full Monty.
Kuhn has been scouring the UK and the rest of Europe for large-scale projects to feed his production and distribution deal with 20th Century Fox, Citibank and German tax-based funding.
Since launching in June 2001 with the aim of making studio-level films based around European talent and stories, the former PolyGram Filmed Entertainment chief has made low-budget UK film Wondrous Oblivion and boarded Fox's Sin Eater, recently re-titled The Order.
Odysseus is a big-budget sword and sandals epic dealing with what happens when the mythological Greek hero returns home from the ten-year Odyssey he embarks on after the fall of Troy. Combining a historical sweep and more personal, human drama, the project is understood to be ready to shoot this year, pending financing.
Odysseus joins a host of sword and sandals epics vying to shoot. Amongst the most high profile, Wolfgang Peterson's Troy, starring Brad Pitt as Achilles, is expected to come to the UK this year for Warner Bros and Village Roadshow Pictures. Oliver Stone is to direct Colin Farrell in the story of Alexander the Great for Intermedia, while Baz Luhrmann is preparing a rival Alexander film with Leonardo DiCaprio, on which Fox dropped out.
Fox also struck a deal for North American on Jordan's Borgia project, the story of the infamous Renaissance family. But the project embarked on its own financing odyssey last year as pre-sales to independent distributors were hit by the European pay-TV crisis. After the production switched from sales agents Myriad Pictures to Graham King's Initial Entertainment Group, delays meant that the film's star Ewan McGregor had to pull out, although he was at the time understood to remain committed to the project.
Kuhn has a deal with Fox to handle distribution in North America, the UK, Italy, Germany and Latin America. Pasolini also has a relationship with the studio, whose offshoot Fox Searchlight backed The Full Monty and struck a long-term deal with the producer in 1998.
Kuhn, Pasolini, Jordan's agent Jenne Casarotto and his regular producer Stephen Woolley were not available for comment.