After 2005's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, you'd think that director Mike Newell would be desperate for a break from adaptations of deeply beloved books. But no. When the filmmaker heard that Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel GarcÍa Márquez had sold the film rights to his 1985 novel, he ''shamelessly lobbied for it. I loved the book.'' Turning a classic of Latin American literature into an English-language movie was, he admits, ''very high-risk. In a funny way, I felt from the beginning that I was bound to fail. But I couldn't not [try]. And now, here I am, God help me.''
Shot in Cartagena, Colombia, the $45 million movie tells the sprawling saga of Florentino Ariza (Javier Bardem) and his devotion to Fermina Daza (Italian actress Giovanna Mezzogiorno), a woman who he falls in love with as a young man and who rejects him for a wealthy doctor (Benjamin Bratt). Over five decades, he attempts to cure his lovesickness by engaging in 622 affairs. For Spain's Bardem, who remembers reading Cholera when he was 14, it was the story's unabashed romanticism that piqued his interest. ''I think every man in the world has a Florentino inside him,'' he says. ''Because we all have our own Fermina, that woman we will always love forever.''