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Tinto Brass’ “Fanny Hill”



Lord Byron


Cover of the script by
Roberto Lerici and Tinto Brass,
circa February 1981
Ad in weekly Variety,
Wednesday, 25 November 1981, p 21

Two more scandalous sex epics.

Variety, 25 November 1981, p. 5:

Brass Set To Helm Erotic ‘Fanny Hill’

Frankly out to capitalize on the notoriety and commercial windfall of “Caligula,” producer Harry Alan Towers and a triumvirate of Italian counterparts are mounting an “erotic but not pornographic” feature version of John Cleland’s 18th-Century novel “Fanny Hill” to be directed by “Caligula” lenser Giovanni Tinto Brass.

With even its tentative budget vague (“less than $10,000,000 but more than $5,000,000,” per Towers), firm elements at this point include only Brass, Towers and Italian coproducers Federico Aicardi and Giovanni Bertolucci, latter pair in association with Fulvio Lucisano.

Though Towers has a script on hand, he won’t divulge the scribe’s name “because Tinto and I are revising it now and someone else may be brought in. Why embarrass anyone?”

Nonetheless, exec producer Towers says he expects the film to begin a 12-week shooting schedule in March at the Cinecittà Studios in Rome (principal cast will be Anglo-Saxon, he stresses) with later locationing in Britain and a tentative September, 1982 release target.

As to casting, Brass arrives in New York Sunday (29) “to start looking for girls.” Title role is geared “for a looker, though she’ll have to have some acting ability,” Towers said, adding he hopes to have “a good windowdressing of class names” in supporting cameos.

Though the budget’s in the air, Towers insists that the U.S. and Canadian half of the 50-50 financing deal “is already secure through bank credit lines backed by guarantees,” with the other half due from the Italian partners.

He also says “offers have already been made from several major foreign territories,” though nothing is signed anywhere. He expects Italian International will launch the pic in Italy, with company topper Lucisano likely to gain a coproducer credit.

Disposition of all English-speaking territories remains in the hands of the stateside packagers, with foreign deals being handled by Helen Sarlui. Whatever peddling is done ahead of time, Towers said a promo reel would be assembled for the Cannes film market in May.

Towers admits “I zeroed in on this when I saw the ‘Caligula’ grosses and getting Brass makes it that much easier to sell.” However, he made it clear that “this will be erotic, not hardcore, and humorous, rather than brutal.” Pic will nonetheless be assembled into hotter and cooler versions, he said.

Towers was involved most recently in Ken Russell’s aborted “Beethoven’s Secret” project, which fell out of bed earlier this year when interim financing collapsed.

Variety, 10 February 1982, p. 46:

Aicardi, Bertolucci, Annibaldi Set To Film
‘Fanny Hill’ With Brass

Rome, Feb. 9

Three Italian producers have united in a new production company, Fanny Film, for what one of the associates, Federico Aicardi, anticipated as “the biggest European production of 1982.” With Aicardi in the triumvirate are (2) Giovanni Bertolucci (who has two companies on his own — Fiction Film with filmmaker cousin Bernardo Bertolucci and his own San Francisco company) and (3) producer-investor Vittorio Annibaldi.

Project now in active preparation for a mid-April start on a $6,000,000 budget is “Fanny Hill” — substantially based on the notorious 18th-century novel by John Cleland, “Memoirs of Fanny Hill.” Prominently a part of the production as writer, director and editor is Giovanni Tinto Brass, whose recent two films — “Caligula” and “Salon Kitty” — were both dispute-inviting erotic moneymakers.

During the collective interview with Brass, Aicardi and Bertolucci, emphasis remained on the adjective “erotic.” The word “pornographic” was never mentioned. Brass, an advocate and pioneer of sexual liberation from way back, said he will respect the essence of the original novel and the spirit of the times and characters. “Degree of erotica will depend on the atmosphere of each scene as it is being filmed,” Brass told Variety. He sees “Fanny Hill” as expressing the “joy of sex” in contrast to the “violence of sex” in “Caligula.” Brass is now testing for an actress to play the British orphan from the age of 16–20. He comments: “There are only two established actresses who could play the role — Brooke Shields and Nastassia Kinski — but the marked personalities of both might overshadow the character in the book and screenplay.”

“Fanny Hill” will be filmed on exteriors and some natural interiors in England. Most interiors will be filmed at Dear Studios in Rome. An attempt will be made to get the climate and background quality of “Tom Jones,” the filmmaker said, and felt this would be achieved by Mario Garbuglia, one of Italy’s top art directors. Silvano Ippoliti, who lensed almost all of the Tinto Brass’s pics [sic], is in as cinematographer.

Aicardi, an astute international market vet, reports that he has been negotiating various offers for financial partiicpation and theatrical acquisition of “Fanny Hill” from the major markets. “Tobis of Germany will release in that territory but also wants a piece of the action: in Italy, we have received many offers, including the American companies. One major in the U.S. has asked to read the script. Reyzabal of Izaro Film in Madrid wants to distribute and four French companies have asked to participate in the production.”

Fanny Film is not a one-project banner, Aicardi and Bertolucci stated. Second project already in preparation if “The Key,” a film adaptation of the novel by Junichiro Tanizaki, Nobel Prize winner in 1966. Brass acquired film rights to the book and has moved the setting from Japan to Venice of the 1940s, while the characters are now Middle European.

Book previously was filmed in 1960 by Kon Ichikawa as “Kagi” (Odd Obsession).

A third project, this one limited for the time being to Aicardi and Brass, on the latter’s proposal, is “Lord Byron.”

While acting as producer for Fanny Film’s “Fanny Hill,” Giovanni Bertolucci will keep his own San Francisco Film active. That banner is now filming “Vieni Avanti Cretino” (Step Up, Stupid) with Lino Banfi starring under Liciano Salce’s direction — with plans to send “Happy End” before cameras this summer, directed by Gianni Amico.

Brass will film “Fanny Hill” in an original English version. The Fanny Film trio of associates is eyeing a worldwide release break of “Fanny Hill” next Christmas.

Variety, 2 June 1982:

Famous Films Gets ‘Fanny Hill’ Rights

Cannes, June 1.

Famous Films BV of Amsterdam has taken over the “Fanny Hill” project from coproducers Giovanni Bertolucci and Federico Aicardi. Giovanni Tinto Brass, a partner in the project since early days of packaging at Mifed last October, will direct from his own screenplay adaptation of the 18th-century brothel novel by John Cleland.

“Fanny Hill,” as recently as the American Film Market in Los Angeles, was the most prominent picture in Helen Sarlui’s distribution lineup. The Sarlui banner had committed for world sales with a hefty investment. Complicating matters are acquisitions from foreign distribs before, during and after AFM in the area of $1,500,000.

Another complication is the sharp disappointment of Vittorio Annibaldi — a behind-the-scenes financial investor and also one of the original partners with Bertolucci and Aicardi.

A preliminary guess would indicate a possibility of one or more lawsuits for damages and contract violations, though the situation on the Croisette was still too opaque to identify either the plaintiffs or defendants.

An influence was the fast packaging of “Moll Flanders” by Harry Alan Towers. Towers was in on the origin of “Fanny Hill,” but was moved to the sidelines by the other subscribers after the original Mifed packaging sessions.

“‘Moll Flanders’,” Towers told Variety, “will have two versions — one X-rated, the other R-rated. It will be a more explicit version than the one starring Richard Johnson and Kim Novak.”

“Moll” was whipped together at Cannes in much the same way “Fanny” was tied in ribbons at Mifed — i.e., it will enter production late this month or as soon as all the “creative” elements are assigned.

Helen Sarlui is very much a part of the project, having acquired world sales for her various distrib companies. The film will be shot in England and, if all goes according to plan, will be available for Christmas release.

Variety, 9 June 1982, pp. 7, 32:

One period sexploiter that should have been already filming is “Fanny Hill” from every schoolboy’s novel by John Cleland, but the original packagers, Giovanni Bertolucci and Federico Aicardi, dawdled in lining up the big finances required by filmmaker Giovanni Tinto Brass to get “Fanny” cracking. At Cannes, Aicardi and Bertolucci sold their interest to Famous Films of Amsterdam — once or still a financial-administrative home base for Dino De Laurentiis.

In revealing the takeover, Famous Films mentioned only the names of Tinto Brass as director and Famous Films exec Marcello Vignola and changed final title to “Tinto Brass’ ‘Fanny Hill’” in much the same way as filmmaker-title matching for films by Federico Fellini.

Other principals originally connected with “Fanny Hill” — the Helen Sarlui organization and Harry Alan Towers — are now off and running to start production as soon as possible on a remake of the equally celebrated “Moll Flanders.”

Variety, 28 July 1982, p. 7:


(August 2 start in London)
Producer: Luigi & Aurelio De Laurentiis
Director: Giovanni Tinto Brass
Distrib: Famous Films, Amsterdam

Variety, 28 July 1982, p. 33:

Brass ‘Fanny’ Casts As Towers Shoots

London, July 24.

Two productions of the classic erotic novel “Fanny Hill” are in prospect. Auditions are being held in London currently to find a lead actress for a version by “Caligula” director Tinto Brass while Harry Alan Towers claims to have first footage in the can.

For the Towers project Fanny Hill is played by 19-year-old Lisa Raines. Helming is Gerry O’Hara whose credits include the Joan Collins starrer “The Bitch” and several crime series for tv. Screenplay was written by Towers under his Peter Welbeck alias.

The Towers project has an eight-week schedule on locations in Britain and Europe. Foreign sales are being handled by Helen Sarlui for Continental Motion Pictures, a Panama-based company also associated with raising the finance.

The Brass project, being produced by Aurelio de Laurentiis, is due to start shooting in September on U.K. locations followed by a Rome studio. No casting details.

Variety, 2 March 1983:



Giovanni Tinto Brass had his problems last year when he had “Fanny Hill” shot out from under him after getting close to a London start for Luigi and Aurelio De Laurentiis. When Brent Walker took the erotic story into production first, Brass was left high and dry and his version was cancelled.

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