Here’s What We Know About the Upcoming Salvador Dalí Biopic, Starring Ben Kingsley as the Legendary Surrealist

Barbara Sukowa co-stars as his muse and life partner, Gala.

Andreja Pejic as Amanda Lear, Ben Kingsley as Salvador Dali, and Barbara Sukowa as Gala, in Dalíland.

There’s a new Salvador Dalí movie about to hit theaters.

Dalíland, starring Sir Ben Kingsley as the Surrealist, and Barbara Sukowa as his domineering muse and life partner Gala, is set to make its debut on the closing night of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) next month.

Here’s how Deadline explains the plot:

Dalíland tells the story of the later years of the strange and fascinating marriage between the genius Dalí and his wife, Gala, as their seemingly unshakable bond begins to stress and fracture. Set in New York and Spain in 1973, the story is told through the eyes of James, a young assistant keen to make his name in the art world, who helps the eccentric and mercurial Dalí prepare for a big gallery show.

Will the modestly budgeted movie be worth your time? Here are some reasons to hope it might be:

  • It’s directed by Mary Harron, who was behind Christian Bale’s star-making turn in American Psycho. Harron was also behind I Shot Andy Warhol, so she knows artist psychodrama.
  • Kingley sounds like he is really channeling the Surrealist spirit—literally: “At the beginning of some days, I knew that Dalí was reluctant to let me in, until he’d seen me go through certain hurdles,” Sir Ben told Deadline last year. “Then I’d think to myself, ‘Ah, Dali, yes’, and he let me in. That was an extraordinary feeling.”
  • Dalíland sounds as if it leans into the Swinging ’70s vibe, which is novel. Gala and Dalí had a notably unconventional relationship: she had an unquenchable libido and he was terrified of sex, so they had an arrangement where he watched her with other men. This particular film focuses on a very, very ‘70s pair of infidelities: Gala’s obsession with Jeff Fenholt, the original star of Jesus Christ Superstar, and Dalí’s infatuation with Amanda Lear, the cover model for Roxy Music’s 1973 album For Your Pleasure.

Here are a couple of other notable or odd things about this movie:

  • According to Harron, Kingley’s performance as late Dalí resonates less with his Oscar-winning work as Gandhi and more with his goofy villain role in Iron Man 3.
  • Harron says the film will celebrate the creative vitality of late Dalí. “There’s a cliché of Dalí that all his interesting work was in the ’30s and ’40s but he remained an interesting, innovative artist until the end,” she said. This is the period when Dalí was doing shows of holograms and opening his amusement park-like museum in Figueres, Spain with a show of his jewelry. It’s not clear whether the film will tackle the subject, but it is set the same year, 1973, that French authorities discovered a truck full of 40,000 blank pieces of paper that Dalí had signed, evidently to facilitate assembly-line production of lithographs. Innovative!
  • Ezra Miller dons the mustache to play Young Dalí in a series of flashbacks. “Ezra had like three days between finishing Fantastic Beasts and starting The Flash, and insisted on coming and doing our film,” Harron told Deadline last year. She’s likely regretting letting him have his way. A series of reports about Miller, including some very ugly accusations, has rendered him toxic. (Notably, TIFF completely left his name out of its announcement that it would be screening the movie.)

Dalíland doesn’t have a trailer yet, so I can’t say more. But for those who can’t wait until Dalíland comes out for a dose of Surrealist biography, you can always rent Little Ashes, the 2008 film starring Batman actor Robert Pattinson in a truly off-the-wall performance as a young Dalí, in a tale about his same-sex romance with Federico García Lorca.

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