Biopic possible for former Italian PM


ROME -- Bettino Craxi, the former Italian prime minister and one-time political patron and mentor to Silvio Berlusconi who died in exile in North Africa, is attracting attention from filmmakers, his family said Tuesday.

Craxi's son, politician Vittorio "Bobo" Craxi, said that there is interest from several fronts to make a big-screen film about his father's life, though he did not provide details. The younger Craxi said he envisioned actor-director Michele Placido in the lead role of the film.

Speculation about a film on Craxi's life has swirled for years. But this is the first confirmation from a family member that a deal could be in the works.

Meanwhile, Craxi's daughter, parliamentarian Stefania Craxi, backed a major documentary project called "La mia vita e stata una corsa" (My life was a race) from director Paolo Pizzolante. The film will premiere Jan. 24 in Rome, the eight-year anniversary of Craxi's death at the age of 65.

The elder Craxi was a polarizing figure in Italy. He was prime minister from 1983-87, longer than any other Italian postwar leader until Berlusconi served for nearly five years, ending in 2006. Craxi also was an early patron of Berlusconi's, paving the way for the creation of the Mediaset broadcast giant out of a series of small local television channels. Craxi is said to have encouraged the Milan billionaire to enter politics, which he did in 1994.

But Caxi was the highest-ranking figure to fall in the wake of the early 1990s "clean hands" scandal, and he escaped to Tunisia in order to avoid being jailed. Tunisia's strong-armed leader Ben Ali denied repeated requests that Craxi be extradited to Italy.

As Craxi neared death from complications related to diabetes in 2000, he repeatedly asked the Italian government for the right to return to his native country to die on Italian soil. But he was told he would be sent to prison if he returned to Italy, and he never again set foot in his home country.