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Sergio Leone's New York gangster epic "Once Upon a Time in America" is getting the redux treatment. The 1984 classic starring Robert De Niro and James Woods will be fully restored into a longer director's cut by Italy's revered Bologna Cinemetheque L'Immagine Ritrovata lab, using digital techniques and adding 40 minutes of original footage.
Leone's children, Andrea and Raffaella Leone, have acquired Italian rights to "Once Upon a Time in America," from Arnon Milchan's New Regency, and now aim to bow their redux version, which is being supervised by the pic's original sound editor, Fausto Ancillai, at either the Cannes or Venice fests in 2012.
The Bologna Cinematheque is a world leader in film preservation which, besides restoring the Spaghetti Western maestro's previous works, is also in charge of the Charlie Chaplin archives.
The current cut of Leone's Jewish New York gangsters epic -- which Warner Bros. in January re-released remastered on Blu-ray -- stands at an already lengthy 229 minutes.
That cut is how "Once Upon a Time in America" world premiered in Cannes in 1984. The pic was subsequently chopped down to 139 minutes, excluding several flash-back sequences, for its U.S. release, which caused many critics at the time to cry out that it had been murdered.
A rep for Rome-based Leone Films said they are in advanced talks with News Corp.'s Sky Italia for their redux version to air on the Italo paybox and are also eying its possible theatrical release in Italy. [/i]
A translation of an Italian article by Fabio Santini indicating some of the restored footage:
“What a thrill, like a son who returns home after many years ...”
Andrea, son of the unforgettable film director Sergio Leone, along with his sister Raffaella at the head of Leone Productions, has succeeded in a task very dear to his heart. He has purchased from the producer Arnon Milchan the Italian rights to Once Upon a Time in America, his father’s last film dated 1984.
“It was a long negotiation, difficult, but eventually we made it.” told a liberated Andrea “Now the film will go to the restored images lab of the Cineteca Bologna, directed by Gianluca Farinelli.” They are dedicated to the painstaking restoration of images frame by frame, dubbing the original, soundtrack, effects. “Especially” Andrea Leone continues, “to reassemble the pieces of film, which my father had to cut due to time restraints.”
Among these is the encounter at the Riverdale Cemetery between Noodles - De Niro - and Louise Fletcher (the unforgettable nurse in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest). Louise Fletcher plays the director of the cemetery, an austere and ambiguous character, giving an atmosphere of great pathos to Noodles’ first research into his past.
And also, the encounter of old Noodles with Elizabeth McGovern on stage in a theater as she recites the part of Cleopatra in Shakespeare’s ‘Antony and Cleopatra’. “The dubbing remains the original.” Andrea continues “So we will not dub the new components whose on-screen dialogue will be subtitled in Italian. There will be new and complex editing. To supervise the task we will use some-one exceptional. Like a Quentin Tarantino or Martin Scorsese, who understand the film culture of my father, and are expert in the restoration of old films. We wanted to show the new edition of the film at Cannes this year, but there is not sufficient time. Too bad because the president of the Jury will be De Niro. With Sky, we are studying plans for its launch. I do not exclude that the film will return to theaters in 2012."
But the surprises do not end there. “Rummaging in the drawers of my father’s study” Andrea Leone continues, “we found a screenplay that he wrote between 1960 and 1965. It is the story of a handful of fighters engaged in a battle of Ancient Rome. The film is inspired by ‘The Magnificent 7’. We contacted David Franzoni, screenwriter of 'Amistad' and 'The Gladiator "and we're making a movie to be produced by studios or independents linked with Milchan. Franzoni is pumped by the idea of putting together a film based on an original script by Leone. He is an avid fan. In his study he has a giant poster of The Good the Bad and the Ugly.”
Yes, I do know the way to Funkytown.