Johnny Depp has confirmed that Al Pacino has accepted a role in the biopic of artist Amedeo Modigliani, which will become Depp’s second film as director.
Pacino will play the role of real-life art collector Maurice Gangnat (whose portrait was painted in 1916 by Pierre-Auguste Renoir) in Modi, a drama adapted from a play by Dennis McIntyre. Italian actor Riccardo Scamarcio has been cast in the title role, while French actor Pierre Niney is to play fellow artist Maurice Utrillo. Modi is due to start shooting in Budapest, Hungary, in the autumn, and will be Depp’s first film as director since The Brave, released in 1997.
According to the film’s producers, Modi “follows a chaotic series of events through the streets and bars of war-torn Paris in 1916”, during which Modigliani is “on the run from the police [and his] desire to end his career and leave the city is dismissed by fellow Bohemians: French artist Maurice Utrillo, the Belarusian-born Chaïm Soutine and English muse Beatrice Hastings. Modi seeks advice from his Polish art dealer and friend Léopold Zborowski, but the chaos reaches a crescendo when he’s faced with a collector who could change his life.”
Born into an Italian Jewish family in Livorno, Modigliani moved to Paris in 1906 and became enamoured of the bohemian life; his best known works, of nudes with elongated limbs, were mostly painted between 1916 and 1919. Modigliani died in 1920 aged 35 from tuberculosis, a condition worsened by his erratic lifestyle. While he made little money from his work while he was alive, his paintings now command huge prices, with his 1917 work Nu Couché fetching $170.4m in 2015.
Depp will shortly be seen as Louis XV in French period drama Jeanne du Barry, directed by and starring Maïwenn, which will have its world premiere on 16 May in the prestigious opening slot at the Cannes film festival. The festival’s general delegate Thierry Frémaux defended the decision after Depp’s success in high-profile legal action with his former wife Amber Heard, saying it was not “a controversial choice”, adding: “If Johnny Depp had been banned from working it would have been different, but that’s not the case.”