Biography has Van Gogh filmmakers rethinking ending

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The producers of a new film about Vincent Van Gogh are rethinking its ending in the wake of a definitive biography that doubts the long-held belief that the Dutch painter took his own life.

"Van Gogh" would be the first English-language feature film about the giant of post-Impressionism since "Lust for Life" in 1956, in which Kirk Douglas portrayed Van Gogh shooting himself while painting in a French wheat field.

In their just-released "Van Gogh: The Life," biographers Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith contend that the evidence points more towards Van Gogh being accidentally shot in a French village by teenagers playing with a gun.

"Due to this new development, as of now, the ending of our film is yet to be determined," the writer and producer of "Van Gogh," Kira Madallo Sesay of Kalliope Films, told AFP in an email.

No one on the project has so far read Naifeh and Smith's biography, nor have they been in contact with them, but the validity of the authors' claim will be "thoroughly" investigated, she said.

"Once we gather the facts and discuss it with our international team of Van Gogh experts, who are consulting us on the movie, we will make a decision on how to end the film," she added.

Naifeh and Smith, winners of a Pulitzer prize for their earlier life of Jackson Pollack, stirred controversy in the art world by arguing that Van Gogh might have been fatally shot in 1890 by teenagers who had been taunting him.

He claimed suicide on his deathbed in order to protect the youths, added the authors, who acknowledged that their theory -- based on circumstantial evidence -- is inconclusive.

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has called the shooting theory "interesting" and "spectacular," but added it is too soon to jettison the long-held suicide version of events.

Sesay -- best known as a writer and producer of horror films as well as a live-action 3D version of Hansel and Gretel to be released next year -- said that she and her team have been researching Van Gogh for years.

"As a result of our Van Gogh detective work, we have discovered surprising new information that neither we nor our experts had previously heard of," she said.

Besides deciding how Van Gogh will die in "Van Gogh," Sesay is also still looking for an actor to play the artist in the film, which will be shot in Europe in some of the actual places where he lived.

"In addition to physically resembling Van Gogh, the performer's acting ability is what is of primary importance to us," she said. "Although a celebrity would be nice for the role, we are also very open to discovering an unknown actor to play Vincent."

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