Infinitum Nihil: Johnny Depp’s Best-Kept Secret


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June 28, 2006

By Mortsmuse

Infinitum Nihil. Infinite Nothing. The moniker of this promising new production company evokes a rather bleak image in one’s mind. It seems an odd choice of name for the company – but because the CEO of said company is one Mr. Johnny Depp, folks shake their heads and smile knowingly. “Well, of course he chose a name like that…what did you expect? He’s Johnny Depp, after all.”

Indeed. He is Johnny Depp, and due in part to a certain pirate movie a couple of years ago, he now has the funds and the reputation necessary to run his very own production company. Depp, who was once labeled box-office poison, now finds himself one of the most fawned-after Hollywood players…to the general movie-going public, the casual admirer who does not realize that Depp had a career between Edward Scissorhands and Pirates of the Caribbean, he seems a reluctant hero, who scratches his head and ponders his sudden adulation. But underneath the shy, somewhat eccentric exterior lies a savvy businessman who is furiously using his newfound A-list status to his best advantage. And although the Infinitum Nihil website has no information regarding the company’s famous founder or any projects in the works — merely consisting of one page, a black background with a flashing red box-shaped symbol at the top and a quote from Tolstoy – “Force is force, matter is matter, will is will, the infinite is the infinite, nothing is nothing” – Depp, along with co-founders Christi Dembrowski (Depp’s sister) and Sam Sarkar, have been quite busy indeed in the two short years the company has been in existence.

Depp, Dembrowski and Sarkar founded Infinitum Nihil in 2004, signing a three-year, first-look production deal with Graham King’s Initial Entertainment Group. Under the terms of the deal, Initial will finance and co-produce films with Infinitum Nihil. Initial will also cover Infinitum Nihil’s overhead costs, and provide an undisclosed discretionary fund for development on a project-by-project basis. Initial will retain international rights to any films.

Through the combined efforts of Initial and Infinitum Nihil, Depp will develop projects he is expected to serve as producer on and/or star in. The first project Initial and Infinitum Nihil embarked on was purchasing the rights to Happy Days, a novel by author Laurent Graff about an odd young man who prematurely acquiesces to his own mortality, purchasing his own grave at age 18 and choosing to spend the rest of his life in a rest home at age 35. It has not been determined yet whether Depp will star in the film, but he will produce along with King. Other projects in the works include adaptations of the following books: The Bomb in my Garden by Mahdi Obeidi and Kurt Pitzer, a cautionary tale about the dangers of nuclear proliferation; I, Fatty by Jerry Stahl, a story about Hollywood’s first celebrity scandal from the perspective of Fatty Arbuckle himself; Inamorata by Joseph Gangemi, a thriller involving Spiritualism in the 1920s and based on real-life events; A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby, a story delving into the hearts and psyches of four lost souls who connect just when they’ve reached the end of their collective ropes; The People’s Act of Love by James Meek, an epic tale of desire and sacrifice set in a remote Siberian village amid a lawless, unforgiving landscape; Ballad of the Whiskey Robber by Julian Rubinstein, a story of a Transylvanian refugee who turns to crime and robbing banks after failing at several jobs in 90s post-communist Hungary, eventually becoming a folk hero in his native country; Articles of War by Nick Arvin, a short story about a young farm boy from Iowa sent to Normandy shortly after D-Day in WWII; and finally, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, a true story set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay about an escaped convict named Lin, who flees maximum security prison in Australia for the teeming streets of a city where he can disappear. With the help of his faithful Indian guide and friend, Prabaker, the two men embark on many adventures together as Lin searches for love and meaning in his fractured life.

The rights to Shantaram were purchased from Roberts for a reported $1 — $2 million, and to date is the only Initial/Infinitum Nihil feature-length film in production. Warner Brothers Pictures and Warner’s Plan B production company are also involved in the project, and Roberts is heavily involved with development of the script, having already met with Depp on several occasions during breaks from filming Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Depp is slated to star as Lin, the main character of the story, and several other actors are currently in talks to take on other important roles. Acclaimed director Peter Weir had been on board to direct the complicated tale, but unfortunately, “Peter moved on from this film because his interpretation of it differed greatly than that of the studios and producers,” according to a Warner Brothers spokesman. Warner Brothers has begun talking to directors to replace Weir, but remains optimistic that production will begin by Spring of 2007, and are continuing with scouting filming locations in India, Spain, and the U.K.

It is speculated that another project Depp is set to star in, The Ginger Man, (an adaptation of the groundbreaking novel of the same name by J.P. Donleavy) is an Infinitum Nihil project; however, at the time of this article this has not been confirmed.

The most recent news of Infinitum Nihil is of being linked to a short film called Franglais, directed by Richard Carroll. The film was created to show to guests on opening night of Trigg Ison’s Gravleur exhibit in Los Angeles, an exhibit largely made possible by Depp, who became enamored with the works of the French artist and desired to introduce him, and his paintings, to the American art community. The short film Franglais is an involved and intriguing piece about the artist Gravleur. Carroll had the following to say about the project:

“At the start of 2005, I was asked to make a short film about an artist. Johnny Depp is a big fan of Gravleur’s work, and is hosting an exhibition of the work in Los Angeles in 2006 – and he wanted a film to go along with it. This film has now been made into a DVD invitation and I have made a second film, Franglais, which is shown to the invited audience on the opening night. The second film deals with the anxieties of the artist on the eve of the exhibition in LA – all told through recorded telephone conversations between himself and the filmmaker.”

Franglais can be viewed here:

For a man who seemingly has so much on his plate already in front of the camera, it is difficult to imagine Depp being even busier now behind the scenes, acting as producer to several very promising Infinitum Nihil projects, several of which he will also star in – but it appears that due to his diligence and keen instinct for selecting stories that touch the heart and soul, the casual fan will be treated to several instant classics over the next few years starring Hollywood’s true chameleon, one of the most versatile actors working today. Will the casual fan, while sitting in the theatre in awe of Depp’s acting abilities, realize just how much work he has contributed behind the camera on these projects? Probably not…and if Depp’s past tendency to remain as low-key as possible is any indication, that will be just fine with him…although this writer/diehard Depp fan does fervently wish he would at least update the Infinitum Nihil website. After all, there’s nothing wrong with tooting your own horn just a little.

Copyright 2006, Mortsmuse and All rights reserved.