Hollywood returns to Rome's Cinecittà studios

Tax incentives lure foreign film companies back to Rome

The production of several Hollywood movies is scheduled at Rome's Cinecittà studios in the coming months, marking a reversal of fortunes for the historic studio which until recently faced an uncertain future.

The biggest coup for the studios has been landing a blockbuster remake of the epic historical drama Ben Hur, which was filmed in Cinecittà in 1959 and has been its main claim to fame ever since. William Wyler's movie, which starred Charlton Heston, won 11 Oscars and became one of the most successful films of all time.

The 2014 version by Russian-Kazakh director Timur Bekmambetov will be both a remake of the 1959 film and an adaptation of the 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, by Lew Wallace. The lead role will be played by English actor Jack Huston, who appeared in last year's American Hustle, as well as starring veteran American actor Morgan Freeman, best known for films such as The Shawshank Redemption and Invictus.

Another major movie production at Cinecittà is Zoolander 2, featuring top American comedy actors Ben Stiller and Will Ferrell. On 17 November Stiller attended a reception at the US ambassador's residence at Villa Taverna in honour of Robert De Niro, who was in Rome for a screening of a documentary about his father at the Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI secolo (MAXXI).

Recently Cinecittà secured a number of deals for other international films, according to its administrator Giuseppe Basso, who credits new tax incentives for the spike in interest from foreign film companies. Basso says that measures approved by the Italian government have seen Cinecittà return to being competitive on an international stage once more.

Its other foreign films in the pipeline include Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Iranian-American director Cyrus Nowrasteh; and Voice from the Stone by American director Eric D. Howell.

Earlier this year the studios acted as the backdrop for Everest by Icelandic director Balthasar Kormakur, which starred Jake Gyllenhall as well as many “extras” from Rome's English-speaking acting community.

Meanwhile, Sarah Jessica Parker's All Roads Lead to Rome is currently being filmed on streets around the capital, while movie insiders say a “fundamental scene” from the 24th James Bond film, starring Daniel Craig and Ralph Fiennes, will be filmed in Rome next year.

In July the Cinecittà theme park opened in the Castel Romano district, south of Rome.