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Two Vivaldi Film Biopics Go Head to Head

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Antonio Vivaldi: A musical personality so vast and varied, he requires two film biographies to capture him.

First talked about five years ago, "Vivaldi," directed by Boris Damast, is finally set to start shooting in September, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The young British actors Max Irons and Claire Foy have been cast in the film, and Neve Campbell, Alfred Molina, Elle Fanning and Tom Wilkinson are reported to be in talks to join the project.

Meanwhile, Jessica Biel, Ben Kingsley and the German-born crossover violinist David Garrett have been named as possible stars of a second biopic, set to be directed by Patricia Riggen and also called “Vivaldi.”

The two films are slated for release in 2011 and 2012, respectively, and both tell the story of the baroque composer, violinist and priest who spent the majority of his career working in an orphanage while churning out some 500 concertos, 90 sonatas, 50 operas and various other works.

Some industry insiders have expressed hope that the films will do for Vivaldi what Milos Forman's “Amadeus” achieved for Mozart more than two decades ago. At the very least, we may be seeing "dueling violins" at the box office.

There are significant differences in the two scripts, according to early reports. Damast’s will focus on how the composer turned a group of outcasts -- the abandoned, illegitimate daughters of Venice courtesans -- into a world-class orchestra that eventually played for the Pope. Riggen’s will concentrate on the musician-priest's inner battles to preserve his vows of celibacy in the face of love.

Damast’s “Vivaldi” has seen a protracted development process, with Joseph Fiennes once slated to play the composer and filming scheduled to begin in 2007. It was canceled and rescheduled for 2009 before being postponed again. Riggen's "Vivaldi," has so far received some $3 million in production subsidies from German public sources but does not yet have a date for the start of shooting.

The simultaneous Vivaldi films recall a similar concurrence in 2006 when two biopics about the author Truman Capote arrived in theaters: "Capote" and "Infamous." The timing forced marketers for the latter film to try and differentiate itself – to essentially persuade people to see a movie they think they have already seen. Commercials for “Infamous" thus tweaked the successful "Capote,” telling audiences that "There's more to the story than you know."

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