Antonio Banderas is in talks about playing the lead role in a forthcoming Salvador Dali biopic, sparking a rivalry between the Spanish actor and another Hollywood giant, Al Pacino, who is playing the surrealist painter in another film.
The Banderas movie, Dali, will be directed by Simon West, an Englishman best known for his work on Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and the Oscar-nominated Black Hawk Down. It will compete with Dali & I: The Surreal Story, starring Pacino. Meanwhile, Robert Pattinson will also play Dali in a third film, Little Ashes, which will chronicle the artist's early life and development.
Dali has been in development since 2003, when West purchased the rights to the script, and will blend live action with computer graphics and music in an attempt to capture the inventiveness and eccentricities of the painter. The story will tell how Dali built an international reputation during the Second World War, only to succumb to scandal and misfortune in later life.
The plot is likely to focus heavily on Dali's outrageous lifestyle, but will also document his lifelong love for his wife Gala, the manipulative manager he also saw as his muse. Filming is due to start early next year in Spain and England.
It is not the first time big studios have clashed over similar projects. In June, Warner Brothers signed Guy Ritchie to direct an all-action film, Sherlock Holmes, with Robert Downey Jr as Holmes and Jude Law as his sidekick, Dr Watson. A month later, however, Columbia Pictures said it was planning a Sherlock Holmes comedy, starring the Borat actor, Sacha Baron Cohen, as the fictional English detective and Will Ferrell as his affable sidekick. At the time, the film industry magazine, Variety, said two similar releases would inevitably lead to "brinkmanship". Its London correspondent, Archie Thomas, wrote: "Presumably, they have done their research and there is an appetite for Sherlock Holmes, but is there an appetite for two?"
In 2006, Warner Independent Pictures released Infamous, a biopic about the US author Truman Capote, barely a year after the commercial and critical success of Capote – an almost identical project which earned Philip Seymour Hoffman a best actor Oscar.
When asked about the decision, the studio's executive vice-president for distribution, Steven Friedlander, said: "Obviously, you have to overcome the 'Gee, didn't I see that movie already?' factor – but, if they enjoyed it, there is the curiosity factor. What's different about this movie? Why is this movie out there?"