Johnny Depp was all anyone could talk about a few months ago. The defamation trial involving him and his ex-wife Amber Heard was consistently one of the top stories between mid-April and early June of this year. And we all learned a little bit about both of them and ourselves in the process. Depp and Heard were both cut off from many of the projects they were involved with due to some of the trial’s revelations. But now Depp is trying to nudge his way back into Hollywood by telling the life story of one of modern art’s most interesting figures: the Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani.
Modigliani had one of the most distinctive styles of any modern painter, known for portraits and nudes featuring elongated faces and almost blank, empty eyes. He died in absolute poverty from tubercular meningitis in 1920, and yet, in 2015, his painting Nu couché sold at Christie’s New York for $170.4 million w/p, making it the ninth most expensive painting in the world. But Modigliani’s story would be an interesting one to tell. Even by the standards of the bohemian artist circles in Paris, Modigliani was considered a little strange, particularly because of his excessive use of absinthe, hashish, and opium. He became acquainted with some of his contemporaries, like Picasso and Renoir, neither of whom he liked particularly much. Modigliani reportedly got offended when Renoir offered him some unsolicited advice on how to paint nudes. Meanwhile, he frequently insulted Picasso for always wearing the same pair of blue overalls: “He may have talent, but that’s no reason why he shouldn’t dress decently.“ But while Modigliani‘s work sells for just as much as a Picasso or a Renoir today, many refused to take him seriously while he was alive. He often worked as a sign painter by day, while at night, he sold his drawings on the street in exchange for a drink at a bar or a café.
A film adaptation of Modigliani‘s life isn’t exactly new, though. Andy Garcia played the Italian painter in a 2004 biopic, which was poorly received, to put it lightly. However, the Depp film will be an adaptation of a stage play by Dennis McIntyre, depicting what can be considered the most important 48 hours of the artist’s life in 1916. Depp is set to direct the film, something he hasn’t done since his 1997 film The Brave. He’s also managed to bring in Al Pacino as a co-producer. Filming is set to begin in the spring of 2023. Despite Modigliani dying at age 35, the 59-year-old actor might be able to pull off playing an addict-artist convincingly. But whether or not his reputation will sufficiently recover from his defamation trial is unknown.