Helmer Stephen Herek’s Mud Pony Prods. has optioned the film rights to Margaret Hooks’ biography “Tina Modotti: Photographer and Revolutionary” under the company’s first-look deal with Touchstone Pictures.
Herek — who currently is on location in Miami filming the Eddie Murphy-Jeff Goldblum starrer “Holy Man” for Touchstone — will direct and produce along with his Mud Pony Prods. partner Rebekah Rudd. The project was acquired out of Mud Pony’s discretionary fund.
Madonna and Gabriel Byrne are attached to star in the film version, which had been in development at Mick Jagger’s film banner Jagged Films since it originally was optioned in 1994.
Hooks’ bio tells the story of the Italian-born Modotti, who emigrated to the U.S. in 1913 and became a photographer after a stint as an actress in Hollywood silent films. During the ’30s, Modotti became known for her Communist political activism in Mexico and Europe as well as for her photography. She died mysteriously in 1942 at the age of 45. A contemporary of Frida Kahlo, Modotti’s work in recent years has commanded high prices at art auctions around the world.
Herek and Rudd first became interested in the project in 1994, when they discovered Irish writer Hooks’ book. But Jagged Films held the rights.
According to the Mexico City-based Hooks, when Jagged Films’ option lapsed in July, Mud Pony was among several production companies and actors to bid for the rights.
“Jagged wanted to extend the option period, but I was not happy with the direction they were taking with the material,” said Hooks. “I wanted to find someone whose approach I liked much better and who I felt had the wherewithal to get the film made.
“Stephen Herek has shown himself capable not only of making outstanding films but also of great diversity in his work.”
Hooks hinted at what could become a battle to play Modotti. She pointed out that actress Linda Fiorentino (“Men in Black,” “The Last Seduction”) contacted her in an attempt to secure the rights herself. Fiorentino said in July’s Allure magazine that she would do anything, short of murder, to play the part.
Herek is repped by Endeavor.