Italy's Rai Cinema has pre-bought Italian distribution rights to a trio of hotly anticipated US pictures: Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, Lakeshore's upcoming Philip Roth adaptation, American Pastoral, and Miramax's major new Jennifer Lopez vehicle, Shall We Dance.

Sold by Initial Entertainment Group (IEG) and written by John Logan, The Aviator follows the life of Howard Hughes from his first film Hell's Angels in 1930 to 1946. The $100m picture stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Hughes, Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn and Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner, and will be co-distributed in the US by Miramax Films and Warner Bros.

Rai Cinema has also pre-bought Italian rights to Lakeshore's upcoming adaptation of Philip Roth's 1998 Pulitzer winner, American Pastoral.
Philip Noyce is attached to direct.

Rai has also bought rights to Miramax's remake of the hit 1996 Japanese film, Shall We Dance, which stars Jennifer Lopez and Richard Gere.

Spyglass is handling international rights on the film except for Japan, where Gaga Communications owns rights. Miramax has US rights to the picture, which is currently shooting in Winnipeg, Canada, and tells the story of a bored middle-aged accountant who falls in love with his dance instructor.

All three films will be distributed in Italy through Rai Cinema's distribution label, 01, which the company now fully owns after its 50-50 ownership contract with StudioCanal expired in June.

Macchitella said 01 is currently looking for a potential minority distribution partner, which could be either European or American.

Meanwhile, Rai Cinema is also ramping up a strong international production slate, which includes Ship High In Transit, the new film from No Man's Land director Danis Tanovic.

Negotiations are understood to be currently underway with Monica Bellucci and French superstar Jean Reno to star in the film, which is set in North Africa and produced by much of the same team as Tanovic's Oscar winner.

Rai Cinema is also in talks to co-produce Jodie Foster's long-cooking project, Flora Plum. It is expected that production will start in 2004 on the film, which is set in the world of the circus and will also star Foster.