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Depp's most challenging role yet!

He's often called this generation's finest, and most dynamic, actor. Known for his mastery of eclectic and varied characters -- a murdering barber in the twisted musical Sweeney Tood, an idiosyncratic and slightly neurotic confectioner in Willy Wonka and a lovable, drunken Jack Sparrow [Images] in Pirates of the Caribbean [Images], to name a few -- Johnny Depp [Images] is an actor's actor, not afraid to push his boundaries and embrace the most difficult of roles.

But now, as reported in the UK Independent, Mr Depp is prepared to undertake what might be his most challenging role yet: an author who hopes to elucidate one of mankind's great works, Dante's 'The Divine Comedy'.

Depp's production company, Infinitum Nihil, has bought the screen rights to In the Hand of Dante, by Nick Tosches, a 2002 mystery novel which reprises the dramatic afterlife themes and images of 'The Divine Comedy' while exploring storylines involving Dante himself, as the 14-th century Italian author works to complete his masterpiece.

The author, in the book named simply Tosches, is asked to determine the authenticity of a manuscript given to him by a gangster, who claims it's Dante's original.

Depp will play Tosches, the daring and dashing author whose Indiana Jones-like quest takes him around the world. In flashbacks, the movie returns to the time of Dante, as he works to complete his magnum opus. As to who will play Dante is still a mystery.
'The Divine Comedy', written in the 14th century, is a rich, evocative interpretation of the Christian afterlife, with specific descriptions of its three realms: hell, purgatory and paradise. In the 14,000 line work, Dante travels through all three realms, led by his guides Virgil and Beatrice. The work is particularly famous for its description of the Nine Circles of Hell, which start from the outer edge of the Earth and move progressively towards its centre, horrible places full of monsters, rivers of boiling blood and immeasurable suffering. To
see Depp handle this should be a treat.

But, the question begs, what has happened to Mira Nair's Shantaram [Images], a film adaptation of Gregory David Roberts' famous Mumbai-based novel, which was supposed to star Depp. Since the film was announced, we've seen a string of Depp-starrers, but no new word on Shantaram. In fact, there are whispers that the project has been shelved indefinitely, quite sad, given the overwhelmingly positive reception that's greeted Danny Boyd's Slumdog Millionaire, described by some as an Ode to Mumbai.

Photograph: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

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