Drawing in stars

Pacino joins Depp’s biopic of Jewish artist Modigliani

Veteran star will portray art collector Maurice Gangnat in movie diving into the life of the iconic painter against the backdrop of 1916 Paris

Al Pacino, in London on May 18, 2015. (Photo by Jonathan Short/Invision/AP)
Al Pacino, in London on May 18, 2015. (Photo by Jonathan Short/Invision/AP)

Al Pacino has joined the cast of the Johnny Depp-directed biopic about Amedeo Modigliani, an Italian Jewish artist recognized for his distinctively stylized portraits and tumultuous personal life.

In “Modi,” Pacino is slated to portray Maurice Utrillo, an art collector and contemporary of Modigliani.

The film is set to commence production in the autumn in Budapest, Hungary, featuring Italian actor Riccardo Scamarcio in the title role.

It will follow the trials and tribulations of the painter and sculptor in 1916 war-torn Paris.

“This is a snapshot of Modigliani’s life that gives us insight into his struggle as an artist suffering from lack of recognition,” producer Barry Navidi said.

Modigliani, born to a Sephardic Jewish family in Italy in 1884, is celebrated for his unique, elongated portraits and nudes, which are characterized by their stretched necks, faces, and bodies, and the tranquil, somewhat detached expressions they bear. Key elements of Modigliani’s style include form simplification, abstraction of the human figure, and a restrained color palette.

Amadeo Modigliani in his art studio. (©RMN-Grand Palais musée de l’Orangerie/Archives Alain Bouret, image Dominique Couto)

Despite his work receiving little acclaim during his lifetime and his struggle with poverty, Modigliani’s art is highly prized today.

His painting “Nu Couché” (Reclining Nude) fetched over $170 million at a 2015 auction, ranking among the highest prices ever paid for a piece of art at auction.

In 2013, Modigliani’s painting “Portrait de Anne Bjarne,” was sold for a staggering NIS 31.5 million, setting the record for the most expensive painting ever auctioned in Israel.

‘Portrait de Anne Bjarne’ by Amadeo Modigliani (photo credit: Wikipaintings/ public domain)

Modigliani is also remembered for his bohemian lifestyle. He resided in Paris for a significant portion of his life, forming connections with fellow artists and writers, such as Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau. Plagued by health issues, he succumbed at the age of 35 to tubercular meningitis, a condition exacerbated by his excessive alcohol and substance abuse.

Last year, the Hecht Museum at the University of Haifa revealed the discovery of three previously unknown Modigliani sketches hidden beneath one of his paintings.

The movie will mark Depp’s second directorial venture, following “The Brave” in 1997.

Actor Johnny Depp waves to supporters as he departs the Fairfax County Courthouse after closing arguments on May 27, 2022 in Fairfax, Virginia (AP Photo/Craig Hudson, File)

He is also starring in “Jeanne du Barry,” which is set to open the Cannes film festival on Tuesday.

The festival’s general delegate Thierry Frémaux has defended the decision for the movie to fill the prestigious slot despite the shocking revelations in Depp’s ultimately successful legal action with his ex-wife actress Amber Heard.

It was not “a controversial choice,” Frémaux said last month, according to The Guardian. “If Johnny Depp had been banned from working it would have been different, but that’s not the case.”

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