Gardner Museum art heist focuses on Provincetown movie set
PROVINCETOWN — Certain customers of Arthur Egeli’s gallery recent months were surprised to find what looked like a famous Vermeer painting right in the middle of Provincetown. Probably one in five or sixth visitors, Egeli said, acknowledged that the Vermeer really shouldn’t be there at all because he disappeared without a trace more than 20 years ago.
The gallery painting was a replica – and clearly convincing – painted by Provincetown artist Steve Toomey to add authenticity to Egeli’s fifth film. The plot: what could have happened before and after the notorious 1990 Unsolved art theft from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Egeli plans to film his movie “Art Thief” completely in Provincetown for four weeks starting March 23. He will be using an apartment for interior scenes, but is also preparing a scene cleaning up an inmate at Herring Cove Beach. Some scenes will be shot in the museum portion of the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum and inside Provincetown City Hall, he said, with King Hiram’s Masonic Lodge replacing the interior of the Gardner Museum. and the Provincetown Public Library for part of its exterior.
A night of filming is expected to be of the Gardner Museum thieves, posing as police officers, entering City Hall’s backdoor, then shoving the museum’s 13 stolen pieces – including Vermeer’s “The Concert” and ” A Lady and Gentleman in Noir” – back to waiting vehicles.
“I’m sitting in my studio right now watching Rembrandt’s ‘Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee’ and it looks exactly like the real thing. … My studio is currently full of (Gardner) paintings,” Egeli said with a laugh in a phone interview, marveling that Toomey was able to paint as some sort of pandemic project. “And the thing is, when you’re making a movie about a robbery, you can’t just have the paintings that were stolen, but the ones that were adjacent to the paintings that were stolen, that were in the room.”
“Art Thief” will feature four well-known Hollywood syndicate actors, as well as local artists. Egeli is looking for people to play extras in crowd scenes, including at an auction, and 1980s cars to donate to add authenticity to the 1990s setting as well as sponsors. (Interested? https://www.facebook.com/filmsbyarthur.)
Actors in “Art Thief”
Max Deacon – whose credits include ‘Into the Storm’ and TV series ‘The Collection’ and ‘Hatfields & McCoys’ – will play Kevin Deeley, an orphan from Dorchester who becomes an artist and then a thief who turns into a respected art collector accepted in Boston’s upper social circles.
Jacqueline Emerson, who played “Foxface” in “The Hunger Games,” will play an art curator. Boston actor/comedian Lenny Clarke – seen in ‘Fever Pitch’ and TV shows ‘Rescue Me’ and ‘The John Larroquette Show’ – will play the role of art collector and crime figure from Boston. Keith Szarabajka (best known for “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” “Argo,” and “The Dark Knight”) also recently joined the cast to play a character called Pepitone.
A dialogue coach, Egeli said, worked with some of the cast on Boston accents. Homegrown talent in the 25-person cast will include musician Johnny Bisone (playing a museum caretaker who had used the museum’s basement as a music rehearsal studio), Nicholas Dorr (playing a man who runs an auction house for auction) and Jody O’Neil, with whom Egeli previously worked.
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Egeli’s own previous credits include “The Black Emperor of Broadway”, about actor Charles S. Gilpin in playwright Eugene O’Neill’s groundbreaking “Emperor Jones,” which is now available to stream on Amazon Prime, and “Murder on the Cape,” about the murder of Christa Worthington. Egeli co-wrote “Art Thief” in recent years with his wife Heather and Ian Bowater; the producer is Judith Richland.
Where did the idea for the story come from?
It was Heather who suggested the idea for the film, he said, urging her husband to listen to the WBUR 2018 Podcast “Last Seen” about the Gardner Museum robbery. Egeli said he became convinced that investigators had not correctly considered obsessed collectors as the reason for the crime. This is the premise of his “Art Thief”.
“Once a collector falls in love with a canvas, they must own it at all costs, and that alone was the ultimate motivation behind the daring St. Patrick’s Day operation in 1990,” he said in a written description of the film. “The work was too recognizable to be sold in any market.”
This realization came to Egeli after listening to the podcast, he said in the phone interview. “I wondered why the crime hadn’t been solved? Because I live in this world of art and galleries and paintings and I don’t think they considered the one factor…that he There are some people among us who not only love art, but must have it. And this “must have” thing was not in their investigation. It was more than someone trying to earn money. money. There was someone who loved and wanted the paintings.
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Egeli said he saw this obsession firsthand. “I have these clients who come into my gallery and they put a painting on two credit cards, you know? Because they must have it. So, for me, that was what the cover was missing and what we tried to put in our film.
The flight itself only lasted a few hours in the middle of the night, and Egeli plans to recreate what happened. Then the screenplay, which has been in the works for three years, spins a fictional story around it.
“In a story you want to know who they (the thieves) were before that and how did they come up with the idea and who planned it and then what happened to them after that and why should we care? ‘them?” he said. “We tell everything exactly how it happened that night and what they stole, but before and after is fiction, something we made up.”
The timing of the Provincetown shoot in late March and early April was set in part due to the best weather for the equipment and the amount of light in the daytime. It’s also “the perfect place before it gets too busy and you can’t afford to rent,” Egeli said, though he said the lack of people in Provincetown has made it more difficult search for crew members.
He expects post-production on “Art Thief” to take about a year and said he hopes to get the film into film festivals in 2023. Each of his previous films has found a distributor, has he noted, and he considers this story of the Gardner Museum heist his most commercially appealing subject to date.