BUENOS AIRES, Jan. 18 -- British film director Alan Parker arrived Thursday in Buenos Aires, where he will begin shooting the movie 'Evita' amid protests from Peronists opposed to Madonna playing the leading role. While Peronists splashed the walls of the capital with slogans such as 'Long Live Evita, Madonna Out,' thousands of unemployed Argentines queued up to take part in the casting of extras, since the filming of outdoor scenes will require about 5,000 of them. Filming of the movie, the screen version of the Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber musical 'Evita,' is scheduled to begin Feb. 8. Madonna, expected to arrive in Buenos Aires in the next few days, will play former first lady Eva Duarte, the wife of three-time president Juan Domingo Peron who founded the ruling Peronist party -- now called the Justicialista Party. Sources in Buenos Aires said Madonna would film outdoor scenes in the Argentine capital and leave immediately after. Eva Duarte, or Evita, was one of the best-loved and most controversial figures in Argentine history. President Carlos Menem said last year that the movie had no bearing on the real history of Eva Duarte. The protests against Madonna playing the role were organized by rightists within the ruling party, led by Alberto Brito Lima. Many of the young people who flocked to the casting sessions said they were more interested in finding work than in the film itself. The outdoor scenes, which were delayed by more than a week, will be shot in the Buenos Aires districts of Liniers and La Boca, and in San Isidro and Canuelas, which form part of Greater Buenos Aires.
The rest of the movie is to be shot in London and Budapest. Peron, one of Argentina's most influential politicians, will be played in the film by British actor Jonathan Pryce, best known for his roles in the film 'Brazil' and the stage musical 'Miss Saigon.' Spaniard Antonio Banderas will play a generic character known as 'Che,' representing Argentine workers during Peron's rule. The character will replace the role of Argentine revolutionary Ernesto 'Che' Guevara in the original stage production. Director Oliver Stone had considered making the film version of the award-winning musical, but he stepped away from the project when it became clear that Argentine officials would restrict Stone's access to certain locations for filming unless they had a say in how Mrs. Peron was characterized.