EXCLUSIVE: On the eve of his acting return at the Cannes Film Festival, Johnny Depp has set a buzzy first round of cast for Modi, his first directorial effort in 25 years.
The biopic of Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani will be led by Italian star Riccardo Scamarcio (John Wick Chapter 2), Cesar Award winner Pierre Niney (Yves Saint Laurent) and screen icon Al Pacino (The Godfather).
Filming is due to get underway in Budapest this fall and the hot package is being sold at the Cannes market by The Veterans. Additional casting is underway.
Based on a play by Dennis McIntyre and adapted for the screen by Jerzy and Mary Kromolowski, the film will tell the story of the famous painter and sculptor Modigliani during his time in Paris in 1916.
The movie will chronicle the life of the Italian artist across a turbulent and eventful 48 hours which sees him on the run from police through the streets and bars of war-torn Paris. His desire to prematurely end his career and leave the city is dismissed by fellow bohemians: French artist Maurice Utrillo, the Belarusian-born Chaim Soutine and his English muse and lover, Beatrice Hastings. Modi seeks advice from his Polish art dealer and friend Leopold Zborowski, but the chaos reaches a crescendo when he’s faced with a collector who could change his life.
Italian star Scamarcio, known for roles in movies including The Best of Youth, Paolo Sorrentino’s Loro, John Wick: Chapter 2, Nanni Moretti’s Tre Piani and Romanzo Criminale, will play the title role.
Acclaimed French actor Niney, known for movies such as Yves Saint Laurent and Frantz, has been cast as Utrillo, with Pacino set to appear as international art collector Gangnat.
The film marks producer Barry Navidi’s fourth collaboration with Pacino whom he worked with on The Merchant Of Venice (2004), Wilde Salomé (2011), and Salomé (2013). Depp and Pacino also starred opposite each other in the 1997 crime flick Donnie Brasco.
“This is a snapshot of Modigliani’s life that gives us insight into his struggle as an artist suffering from lack of recognition, and a project Al and I have pursued for many years,” said Navidi. “Our incredible cast, coupled with the vision, wit and sensitivity I know Johnny will bring behind the camera, will make this a dream come true.”
Nicola Pecorini (The Legend of Don Quixote) has joined as director of photography, Andrew Sanders and John Beard will lead production design and Penny Rose (Pirates of the Caribbean) will handle costuming. Sharon Howard-Field (Merchant of Venice) will oversee casting.
Navidi and IN.2 (Jeanne du Barry) will produce alongside Depp. Local production in Budapest will be handled by Proton Cinema.
Modigliani will be Depp’s second feature directorial turn after 1997’s The Brave, in which he also starred alongside Marlon Brando. He also directed several music videos for his ex-wife Vanessa Paradis.
Depp’s anticipated acting comeback film Jeanne du Barry will open the Cannes Film Festival next week. He will play King Louis XV in French director Maïwenn’s historical love story, marking his first movie in three years.
The Veterans’ Cannes slate also includes Warwick Thornton’s Cannes Film Festival title The New Boy, starring Cate Blanchett.
Depp is repped by Jack Whigham at Range Media Partners.
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