Oh, this should be established right upfront: Tarsem is making a film about Marco Polo. Recent news had indicated that he would follow Mirror, Mirror with the fantastical horror film Killing on Carnival Row — and that could still happen first, if said news was accurate enough — but ScreenDaily now reports that he’s handling a biopic of the famed explorer, and he’ll do so with Gong Li in a lead role.

A co-production between the United States and China, the untitled film “relates to communication between China and the west” by chronicling Polo’s well-documented adventures in China, some of which happen to involve Li‘s Mongolian empress. (When I was a kid, you always heard that he brought pasta to Italy. That was kind of it.) Such a story apparently requires Tarsem, who the actress holds as an “audacious film-maker you need to make a film about Marco Polo”; he can certainly make a visually resplendent film, and I’d wager a bet that Ancient China deserves such care and attention. I’m interested on that level alone, and if someone can hand him a decent script in the meantime…

Speaking of directors working outside their home countries (no?), Variety has learned that Michelle Pfeiffer is in talks to reunite with Robert De Niro — her New Year’s Eve and Stardust co-star, if you don’t remember — on Malavita, a Luc Besson-directed mob tale. The “darkly comedic actioner” (there’s a combination you don’t get often enough), based on Tonino Benacquista‘s Badfellas, centers on Giovanni Manzoni, a former gangster who assumes the identity of Fred Blake and relocates his family to Normandy; anonymity doesn’t last very long, however, something you can partially understand when you read Pfeiffer would play the protagonist’s wife, Maggie, who possesses “a penchant for arson when crossed.”

That could be a fun role for the actress, especially since it allows a recently-reemerged star to do something other than what we normally expect from her. Shooting on Malavita will commence in August, putting a 2013 opening in the cards.

Is there potential in either film, or the casting being done on them?

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