We just got off the phone with director/artist Julian Schnabel (“Basquiat,” “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly“), who is currently doing press for the Blu-ray/DVD release of his controversial 2010 release, “Miral,” based on the novel by Rula Jebreal about a Palestinian girl growing up in the wake of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
During our interview, Schnabel also revealed plans for his next film, “In the Hand of Dante” based on the book by Nick Tosches. Johnny Depp bought the rights to the book a few years back and the actor asked Schnabel to take a look at the book as a potential next project. The director and Depp bonded during the actor’s double-duty role in 2000’s “Before Night Falls” and cemented that affection when Depp offered high praise for his work on “Miral.” As an astute reader reminds us, Depp was originally scheduled to star in Schnabel’s “The Diving Bell And The Butterfly” until he was waylaid by the ‘Pirates’ films. Clearly a mutual fondness exists.
“There’s a great book called ‘In the Hand of Dante’ by Nick Tosches,” Schnabel told The Playlist. “It belongs to Johnny, but I’m not going to make it for a couple of years. We’re gonna work on writing it, developing it. We didn’t sign anything. It’s just something Johnny asked me to read and I think it’s a great book so maybe you should read it. It’s pretty beautiful. It’s about everything.”
“In the Hand of Dante” revolves around Dante’s masterwork “The Divine Comedy,” and interweaves two separate stories, one set in 14th century Sicily, Italy featuring the legendary poet Dante Alighieri, and another set in the autumn of 2001 featuring a fictionalized version of Nick Tosches as the lead. Both stories alternate as Dante tries to finish writing his magnum opus and goes on a journey for mystical knowledge in Sicily. Meanwhile Tosches the Dante expert, living a quiet life in New York is swept up into an underworld of danger and mystery when black market traders ask him to authenticate what might be Dante’s original manuscript. Depp’s Infinitum Nihil production company landed rights to the project back in 2008, eyeing it as a starring vehicle for him to play the Toches surrogate.
“Miral” hits Blu-ray/DVD tomorrow, July 12th. Check back this week for our full exclusive interview with Schnabel for “Miral.” — Jeff Otto