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By Marco Flores

         After years of experiencing his career declining, actor Johnny Depp, best known for his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, is looking to make a comeback – this time in the director’s chair. Depp is working on his first major project directing a biopic titled Modi. The film follows the life of Italian artist and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani, known to his friends as “Modi.” Depp looks to express his artistic and creative side through the wonders of independent filmmaking and produce a film that intends to share a unique and compelling story with the world. With everything he has endured, Depp deserves to get his life and career back on track, and his experience with directing Modi could be the comeback story for him. 

         Following his recent legal victory over his ex-wife Amber Heard in the highly publicized 2022 Depp v. Heard defamation trial, Depp has decided to take a break from Hollywood and instead focus on reviving his career by working in the independent film industry. In 2023, Depp starred in the historical drama film Jeanne du Barry, portraying French King Louis XV. The movie followed a poor French woman—the eponymous Madame Jeane du Barry—who rose through the ranks of society to eventually become the mistress of Louis XV. Although the film received mixed reviews from critics, Depp’s performance was praised. During the 2023 Cannes Film Festival where the movie premiered, Depp received a seven-minute standing ovation from the crowd. It was so heartwarming seeing Depp trying to hold back his tears while the crowd was applauding his performance in the film. In May 2023, Depp performed at the Jeff Beck tribute concert held at the Royal Albert Hall in London. He performed on stage alongside Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood, and Kirk Hammett. On September 7th, Depp appeared in a new commercial called “The Call Of The Blazing Sun of Sauvage Eau de Toilette” for the Dior fragrance Sauvage. To me, the commercial was full of class. It’s really nice to see a company like Dior remain loyal to their clients, and by continuing its partnership with Depp, it’s clear that the company stands behind him.

In August 2022, Depp announced that he would direct a biopic film about Amadeo Modigliani, a controversial Italian painter and sculptor who was known for producing portraits and nudes in a modern style characterized by a surreal lengthening of faces, necks, and figures. This artistic style wasn’t popular during Modi’s lifetime. Modi is based on a play titled Modigliani by Dennis McIntyre, which was previously adapted for the 2004 critically panned film of the same name, from a screenplay by Jerzy and Mary Kromolowski. According to a press release, the film focuses on two chaotic days in Modi’s life, who is living in Paris and is on the run from the police. Despite objections from his fellow Bohemians, Modi wants to end his career and leave Paris. The chaos reaches a crescendo when Modi meets a collector who could change his life. This is the first movie Depp will be directing since the 1997 film The Brave, where he starred alongside Marlon Brando. Modi is produced by Depp’s European production company IN.2, with producer Barry Navidi, and it’s financially backed by the Red Sea Film Foundation, the same company that financed Jeanne du Barry. 

Italian actor Riccardo Scamario, best known for films such as John Wick: Chapter 2, will portray the titular character. Legendary actor Al Pacino will serve as a producer and have a supporting role in the film as art collector Maurice Gangnat. This marks the third time Depp and Pacino will be working together, the first being the 1997 crime drama Donnie Brasco and the second being the 2011 comedy film Jack and Jill. Interestingly, Pacino had previously pitched the idea for a biopic about Modigliani in the past and considered directing it and having Depp star as Modigliani. Principal photography officially began in September 2023 with the film mainly shot in Budapest, Hungary. Filming wrapped up in Budapest on November 4th, 2023, and a few days later, Depp posted on Instagram, thanking the cast and crew for their work during production. 

In an official statement, Depp expressed his admiration for Modigliani and how honored he was for getting the chance to direct a biopic about him. He described the project as an “incredibly fulfilling and transformative experience” and in that same statement, Depp shared his love and appreciation for the production crew by saying “I would like to express my profound gratitude to the entire cast, crew, and producers for their unwavering commitment and creativity.” Depp also spoke fondly about his experience working with Pacino and even admitted that Pacino was the one who convinced him to direct the film. When talking about Pacino, Depp thanked him for getting the chance to work with him by saying in his official statement “To Al, who requested that I make this film—how could I refuse Pacino? A sincere acknowledgment for generously contributing his talent and dedication to this project.” Seeing Depp and Pacino’s love and respect for each other’s talents show how deep of bond they’ve had for so many years. Depp views Modi as an opportunity to tell a compelling and unique story that connects to audiences through the spirit of independent filmmaking. The film currently doesn’t have a release date yet.

Why am I telling you all this? Johnny Depp deserves to make a comeback after years of enduring legal battles involving his ex-wife and the decline of his acting career. Depp has always been one of my favorite actors and I’m really looking forward to see him making movies again. While he’s highly unlikely to return to the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise or reprise his role as Gellert Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts series (the future of which remains uncertain), Depp’s involvement in the independent filmmaking industry gives him the freedom to express his creative and artistic side, one which we haven’t seen since before the Amber Heard divorce. Al Pacino himself expressed his gratitude for working with Depp again and getting the opportunity to tell Modi’s story on the big screen. Depp doesn’t need Disney or Hollywood to showcase his talents, he’s already talented enough to make it big in the independent movie industry. Will Modi be the great comeback story for Johnny Depp like how The Whale was for Brendan Fraser? Let’s wait to find out. 

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