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Oscar winner Christopher Walken and rising star Elizabeth Debicki (The Night Manager, Steve McQueen’s upcoming Widows) have been cast in The Burnt Orange Heresy, the new neo-noir thriller from Golden Lion-nominated filmmaker Giuseppe Capotondi (The Double Hour).
The project — announced by HanWay Films, which is handling international sales in Berlin — is based on a screenplay by Oscar-nominated writer Scott B. Smith (A Simple Plan) and adapted from the cult novel by Charles Willeford (Miami Blues) about an art-world scam that goes horribly wrong. UTA Independent Film Group is repping the film domestically.
Three-time BAFTA-nominated William Horberg (The Kite Runner, Cold Mountain, The Talented Mr. Ripley) will produce through his Wonderful Films banner alongside Oscar-nominated David Lancaster (Whiplash, Eye in the Sky, Nightcrawler) of Rumble Films and David Zander of MJZ (Spring Breakers). Stephanie Wilcox and Aeysha Walsh, from Rumble Films and MJZ, respectively, will executive produce.
Set in Italy in 1970, The Burnt Orange Heresy follows the story of irresistibly charismatic art critic James Figueras (yet to be cast), who hooks up with provocative and alluring fellow American Berenice Hollis (Debicki). He’s a classic anti-hero in the making with a charm that masks his deep ambition, while she’s an innocent touring Europe, enjoying the freedom of being whomever she wishes. The new lovers travel to the lavish and opulent Lake Como estate of Cassidy, an art-collecting lawyer. Their host reveals that she is the patron of Jerome Debney (Walken), the reclusive J.D. Salinger of the art world, and she has a simple request — for James to steal a new Debney masterpiece from the artist’s studio, whatever the cost.
As the couple spend time with the legendary Debney, they start to realize that nothing about both the artist and their mission are what they seem. But James is a man of deep, lurking ambition and he will do anything, from arson and burglary to murder, to further his career.
The Burnt Orange Heresy is in preproduction and will go into production this summer in Italy. UTA Independent Film Group will oversee the U.S. sale.
“I started my career falling in love with Miami Blues, another great Willeford novel that I brought to Jonathan Demme and Mike Medavoy at Orion,” Horberg said in a statement. “Making The Burnt Orange Heresy in Italy with Hanway and this talented group of filmmakers and actors is a dream come true for me, and I hope will bring back some of the magic of the films I loved growing up in the ‘70s.”
Added Lancaster and Wilcox of Rumble Films: “Reading the script for The Burnt Orange Heresy reminded us a lot of reading Nightcrawler for the first time. We love James’ obsessive pursuit of fame and legacy within the context of the fickle art world, which mocks his ambition at every turn. Perhaps that says something about us as producers?”
Said HanWay Films managing director Gabrielle Stewart: “Giuseppe’s stunning The Double Hour is a very enticing calling card for a project of this class. We are delighted and look forward to be working with industry legends Lancaster and Horberg to set this up as a European production.”
Walken is repped by ICM; Debicki is with CAA in the U.S. and United Management in Australia; and Capotondi is repped by UTA and Anonymous Content.