Amedeo Modigliani, “Jeanne Hébuterne with Hat and Necklace” (1917) (via Wikimedia Commons)

Bolstered by a winning verdict in last month’s defamation trial against Amber Heard (and the newly emerged group of “Justice for Johnny” super-fans), Johnny Depp will direct a feature film about Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani. He will co-produce the movie along with fellow actor Al Pacino.

The film will be based on Dennis McIntyre’s 1978 play Modigliani, which depicts three days of the artist’s life in 1916 and culminates in a meeting with an art dealer who could make or break Modigliani’s career.

Born in Italy, Modigliani moved to Paris to pursue his career as an artist, where he developed a Modernist style characterized by sharply lined portraiture and long faces. He dwelled in the same circles as George Braque, Jean Cocteau, and Pablo Picasso; he drank and used drugs (heavily); he had a two-year affair with British poet Beatrice Hastings; and ultimately, he personified the iconic bohemia of early-1900s Paris. Photographs of Modigliani feature him holding a cigarette and gazing toward the camera — handsome, confident, and brooding.

Modigliani in his studio, circa 1918 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Modigliani, however, also led a life of tragedy. He suffered childhood illnesses and never achieved financial nor critical success during his lifetime, and in 1920, at the age of 35, he died of tubercular meningitis. The day after his death, his lover Jeanne Hébuterne jumped from a fifth-story window, killing herself and their unborn baby and orphaning their infant. Two years later, Modigliani finally achieved fame when his work was displayed in a prestigious solo exhibition.

“The saga of Mr. Modigliani’s life is one that I’m incredibly honored, and truly humbled, to bring to the screen,” Depp told the Hollywood Reporter, which first reported the story. “It was a life of great hardship, but eventual triumph — a universally human story all viewers can identify with.”

Depp has taken a recent interest in visual art, or at least in the personas of famous artists. Last month, he sold $3.6 million worth of prints he had made of celebrities like Al Pacino, Elizabeth Taylor, Bob Dylan, and Keith Richards.

The European branch of Depp’s own production company, Infinitum Nihil, will produce the Modigliani movie. Casting has yet to be announced, but filming will begin in Europe in the spring of 2023.

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Elaine Velie

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.

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