Italian producer Lorenzo Mieli gave a spirited and often humorous rundown of his career as a producer working with directors such as Luca Guadagnino and Paolo Sorrentino during a keynote talk at the London Film Festival Monday.
Mieli is best known for his work on HBO’s hit TV adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend. His most recent credits include Guadagnino’s Venice-winner Bones And All and Sorrentino’s The Hand Of God.
However, Mieli revealed that his working relationship with Sorrentino goes back many years to when he was an executive at Fremantle and was tasked with producing the music competition show The X-Factor.
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“I asked Paolo Sorrentino to be a judge on X-Factor. That was my first idea,” Mieli said. “Luckily for him, he said no, but he was tempted. We spent a few days talking about it. But that was my idea for The X-Factor. We tried to make a very different show with very different tastes.”
Mieli added that producing The X-Factor was risky because he had no idea how to “make a show like that,” but he quickly fell in love with the process.
“The only thing I knew was that I loved music, so I said okay, I’m going try,” he said.
After two further failed pitches, Mieli eventually set a project with Sorrentino. The resulting project would be the director’s popular HBO TV series, The Young Pope. Sorrentino brought the idea for the show to Mieli.
“He brought me an idea about a pope, an American pope, that smokes cigarettes. That was the pitch, and I said fantastic. That seemed to me a very good pitch,” Mieli said during the keynote hosted by Deadline’s Melanie Goodfellow.
The Young Pope stars Jude Law as Lenny Belardo, the first American pope in history. The show debuted at the Venice Film Festival in 2016 and has maintained a cult following, picking up Emmy and Golden Globe nominations.
A second edition of the show titled The New Pope debuted in 2020, with John Malkovich joining the cast. Mieli teased a third season later during the keynote.
“There is an idea that Paolo has that maybe is going to happen. The third and last,” he said.
Mieli is also in London to screen his latest production, Luca Guadagnino Bones And All, starring Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell. The film, which premiered at Venice, is a story of first love between Maren (Russell), a young woman learning how to survive on the margins of society, and Lee, an intense and disenfranchised drifter (Chalamet).
Michael Stuhlbarg, André Holland, Chloë Sevigny, David Gordon-Green, Jessica Harper, Jake Horowitz, Mark Rylance, and Anna Cobb also star in the film. David Kajganich wrote the screenplay based on Camille DeAngelis’ novel.
Bones And All is among a growing number of adaptations on Mieli’s slate under his blue-chip Rome-based banner, The Apartment Pictures. The company will next produce Sofia Coppola’s feature Priscilla, based on the memoir Elvis and Me by Priscilla Presley.
“We got in touch about a TV series she was preparing, and this movie came out during the process. She had written this wonderful script based on the book,” Mieli said of Coppola and the film. “I was so passionate about working with her.”
However, Mieli said it is becoming increasingly difficult for his company, which is backed by Fremantle, to acquire intellectual property to produce.
“It’s very hard because it’s more and more competitive because of the competition not only amongst producers but the streamers who have a huge appetite for properties,” he said. “So that created a crazy moment in acquiring intellectual properties.”
Mieli also teased a new feature film project with Sorrentino. The producer said Sorrentino is currently working out a new idea.
Bones And All, however, opens in theaters November 23.
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