The film trades are buzzing with news that Johnny Depp is negotiating to star in Kyril Bonfiglioli’s The Great Mustache Mystery, the last of the Charlie Mortdecai novels finished after the writer’s death in the mid-80s.
Depp will star as Charles Mortdecai, a debonair art dealer and part-time rogue who, according to the studio, “must traverse the globe armed only with his good looks and special charm in a race to recover a stolen painting rumored to contain the code to a lost bank account filled with Nazi gold.” He also has to juggle angry Russians, the British Mi5, his impossibly leggy wife and an international terrorist.
Anyone who has read Don’t Point That Thing At Me, (and those who haven’t should run, not walk, to read them) knows that Bonfiglioli’s work is a 70s pastiche of Wodehouse and the art trade. Like Wodehouse, the author had a tendency to re-hash some of his best material. But the growing fascination with art far beyond the art world makes the project an interesting bellwether. (That or the rumors are just a way of trying to limit the career damage of The Lone Ranger.)
Either way, seeing Charlie Mortdecai on screen will be the culmination of a long process. The character was originally optioned by Sacha Baron Cohen:
Baron Cohen was attached to the project in 2004, which was viewed by the studio as a potential franchise. Mortdecai would have been Sacha Baron Cohen’s first lead movie role to be released theatrically in the US, but he ended up making Borat instead.
Johnny Depp in Talks to Star in ‘Mortdecai’ (Hollywood Reporter)
The Lost Roles of Sacha Baron Cohen (Splitsider)