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Johnny Depp says Al Pacino convinced him to return to directing: ‘How could I refuse Pacino?’

Johnny Depp has credited Al Pacino for convincing him to return to the director’s chair for their upcoming biopic, Modi.

The new film, which is currently in production, follows the life of Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani over 48 hours in Paris during World War I.

It is the first movie to be directed by Depp since 1997’s The Brave, which he also starred in alongside Marlon Brando.

In a statement, Depp said it was Pacino, who plays real-life French art collector Maurice Gangnat in the film, who persuaded him to join the project.

“Embarking on this cinematic journey as the director of Modi has been an incredibly fulfilling and transformative experience,” Depp said in a statement.

“I would like to express my profound gratitude to the entire cast, crew, and producers for their unwavering commitment and creativity.

Johnny Depp and Al Pacino discuss a scene in their upcoming film ‘Modi’. Pacino plays real-life French art collector Maurice Gangnat in the film. (Sam Sarkar)
Johnny Depp and Al Pacino discuss a scene in their upcoming film ‘Modi’. Pacino plays real-life French art collector Maurice Gangnat in the film. (Sam Sarkar)

“To Al, who requested that I make this film – how could I refuse Pacino? A sincere acknowledgement for generously contributing his talent and dedication to this project.

Modi is a testament to the collaborative spirit of independent filmmaking, and I am excited to present this unique and compelling story to the world.”

The first behind-the-scene pictures from the set have also been released.

Johnny Depp giving notes to the cast on the set of ‘Modi' (Leo Pinter)
Johnny Depp giving notes to the cast on the set of ‘Modi' (Leo Pinter)

The film will star Italian actor Riccardo Scamarcio as Modigliani, with a supporting cast that includes Antonia Desplat, Stephen Graham and Sally Phillips.

According to a press release, Modi will follow Modigliani through a “48-hour whirlwind, capturing a chaotic series of events through the streets and bars of war-torn Paris during World War I.

“On the run from the police, Modi’s desire to end his career and leave the city is dismissed by fellow Bohemians. The chaos reaches a crescendo when he’s faced with a collector who could change his life.”

The film is Depp’s first project since he appeared in Jeanne du Barry, director Maïwenn’s film about the life of Louis XV and his mistress, Jeanne.

Earlier this week, Maïwenn was hit with a €400 (£344) fine for spitting on a French journalist last February ahead of the 2023 Cannes Film Festival.

Johnny Depp directing on the set of ‘Modi' (Leo Pinter)
Johnny Depp directing on the set of ‘Modi' (Leo Pinter)

In December, Depp spoke at the funeral of Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan. During the eulogy, MacGowan’s widow revealed that the late singer had urged Depp to forgive his ex-wife Amber Heard.

Depp and Heard were involved in a series of widely-publicised court battles over the last four years.

In May 2023, the trial in Depp’s defamation lawsuit against Heard drew to a close with a civil jury handing him an overwhelming victory after weeks of dramatic and harrowing testimony.