The Merchant of Venice: Sony Pictures Classics has acquired rights for North America and Germany to Michael Radford's adaptation of The Merchant of Venice, starring Al Pacino as Shylock. Pic premieres out of competition next month at the Venice Film Festival.

The stylized retelling of Shakespeare's classic tale of 16th-century morality, revenge, redemption and love also stars Jeremy Irons as Antonio, Joseph Fiennes (news) as Bassanio, newcomer Lynn Collins as Portia and Zuleikha Robinson as Jessica, daughter of Jewish moneylender Shylock.

"At long last this great play has become a fine movie, which features some of the finest acting of the year," said Sony Classics co-presidents Michael Barker and Tom Bernard.

Written and directed by Radford and shot in Luxembourg, the film was produced by Cary Brokaw, Barry Navidi, Michael Cowan and Jason Piette. Following its Lido bow, "Merchant" will have its North American preem at the Toronto fest. Sony Classics is planning an end-of-year release.

Venice fest slot marks Radford's return to the event that launched his Oscar-winning Italian-lingo hit "Il Postino" as the opening-night gala in 1994.

The "Merchant" deal was negotiated by Barker, Bernard and senior VP of acquisitions and production Dylan Leiner with Gary Hamilton, managing director of London-based sales company Arclight Films/Movision.

Brian B.