The film will have a $45m budget, is to be produced 50% by On My Own - the new independent production company launched by ex-Mikado founders and owners Roberto Cicutto and Luigi Mussini - and 50% by Spike Lee, Luigi Mussini specified.
The project is based on James McBride's novel Miracle at St. Anna, which is inspired by the true story of African American soldiers deployed to fight in Italy during WWII at the sight of one of Nazi Germany's bloodiest massacres in Italy.
The story focuses on an Afro-American soldier that risks his life to save a young Italian boy that is stranded in the mountains.
The film 'will be shot in Tuscany and Rome's Cinecitta' studios but will start and finish in the United States,' Mussini said, adding that while production partners are being sought, 'many interested parties have come forward.'
Casting is ongoing, but Lee and producers confirmed Miracle at St. Anna would have major American, Italian and German actors.
Lee appealed on Tuscan television and national Italian channels for a child actor who will be central to the film. 'He has to be Tuscan, thin and between eight and ten years old,' Lee specified to Italian journalists. Non-actors are welcome.
Lee said that Hollywood has never portrayed black soldiers in WWII movies. 'We got a little play in Vietnam with Francis Ford Coppola's Apocolypse Now and in Oliver Stone's Platoon - but in World War II, forget it,' the issue-driven director said.
Writer McBride, who moved to italy for six months to research the book, said the film would be a hot button topic with Italians as well: 'It hard for Italy to process this painful time in its history,' he said. 'It has taken 60 years for us to reach a point where we can discuss it.'
'When we portray the massacre, there won't be a dry eye in the theater,' Lee later told ScreenDaily.com.
Mussini added that the film's development process was speeding along. 'We have just finished the screenplay the other day,' he said.
Film-makers are doing the first location scouting in Tuscany now, and Mussini hopes the film will shoot in 2008.