Paolo Sorrentino Shelves Silvio Berlusconi Film

Paolo Sorrentino - Getty - H - 2016
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The director says making a film about Italy’s controversial political leader is “complicated.”

Academy Award-winning director Paolo Sorrentino has shelved plans to make a biopic about Italy’s former Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi.

Fresh off the success of the September premiere of his TV series The Young Pope in Venice, Sorrentino announced the film project, titled Them (Loro), meant to be a balanced, not overly critical look at the controversial media mogul turned politician.

But now he says his focus is on writing the second season of The Young Pope, and only once he finishes the script will he turn his focus back to his next project in cinema.

“I wanted to write a script for a film about Berlusconi, but it is a complicated story, and it is not always possible to do the film that you want to do,” said the director in an interview.

After selling globally, The Young Pope premiered in Italy to record-breaking numbers. It will premiere on HBO in the U.S. in January. The cinema director has seemingly fallen in love with creating for television and has announced that he hopes to continue The Young Pope for as long as makes sense.

Loro was expected to begin shooting next year. While no details of the film were made known after Sorrentino’s initial announcement, Italians went wild speculating about who would play Berlusconi. Comedian Massimo Boldi became a trending topic on Twitter after fans guessed he would play Berlusconi. Boldi responded enthusiastically to the rumors, announcing that he would embrace the role if it were offered to him.

Sorrentino did not state exactly why he is shelving the project beyond the complicated story, or whether he plans to pick it up in the future. But in addition to his focus on TV, it seems likely that a Berlusconi film may have been difficult to finance in Italy's current climate.

Sorrentino has had a close relationship with Berlusconi-owned company Medusa, which co-financed both Youth and The Great Beauty. But the company issued a statement saying it was not aware of the project and would not be involved in the film. 

It is also believed that the country is no longer as interested in the 80-year old Berlusconi, who after years of being daily tabloid fodder surrounding tax evasion and "Bunga Bunga" parties has largely left the limelight. After stepping down from politics, he has been selling off his assets, including football team A.C. Milan. A recent plan to sell pay TV outlet Mediaset Premium to Vivendi collapsed after the French conglomerate pulled out of the proposed deal.

Sorrentino has previously excelled at capturing Italy’s messy political history stories on-screen. His 2010 film Il Divo, about Italy’s seven-time Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, swept Italy's David di Donatello awards, won the jury prize in Cannes and was nominated for an Oscar for best achievement in makeup.