* Also see other James Farwell Projects in Development
Feature | English | UK & USA
PRODUCTION STATUS: In Development
GENRE: Action Caper
TAG-LINE: "Everybody wants a Mona Lisa!"
The legendary Lord A.J. Raffles, as iconic in British literature as James Bond, joins forces with Scotland Yard and the FBI to derail a nefarious scheme by Russian President Yuri Titov to get his hands on an original Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. It turns out that more than one exists. Indeed, there are five.
* Lord A.J. Raffles and Bunny Manders are public domain characters, based on the classic characters created during Edwardian times by E.J. Hornung – the brother-in-law of Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes.
The characters have been so popular that they have given rise to feature films starring David Niven, John Barrymore, Ronald Coleman, Nigel Havers (a major West End star) and others. Niven's was the last film, produced in 1939.
There have been plays. These include Raffles, The Amateur Cracksman, which opened at the Savoy Theater in London in 1903. A 1905 play, The Burglar and the Lady, pitted Raffles -- in Hornung's original, a gentleman jewel thief aided by Bunny Manders -- against Sherlock Holmes. Various works have featured all three characters.
Writer/Executive Producer: James Farwell
Producers: Carol Bidault de l'Isle, Chandu Shah
Executive Producers: James Farwell, Frank Hart, Jerry Daigle
Co-Producer: John Oetjen
Countries of production: UK & USA
Year of production: 2020
Duration (in minutes): 90
Budget (M$): 25 Million USD
The art world is shaken when a new Mona Lisa goes up for auction. Among the bidders at London’s toney Barnaby Auction House are some of Europe’s most powerful collectors accustomed to getting - one way or the other - what they want. And they all want a Mona Lisa.
Seventy-two hours earlier, in St. Petersburg, IGOR STRASKOFF, a Russian Oligarch living in London, attends a reception with other Russian glitterati in the Hermitage Museum’s Leonardo Room. Russian President YURI TITOV feels affronted that the Mona Lisa there is only a copy and presses Straskoff to acquire one and "donate" it to Mother Russia.
This conversation is overheard at Government Communications Headquarters in Cheltenham. Still stinging from recent Russian assassinations on UK soil, the Intelligence Services recruit and mobilize Raffles to foil and and humiliate Titov.
A wealthy American woman meets with the FBI director and claims that a genuine Mona Lisa – stolen from her family by the Nazis – is up for Auction in London. NICOLE PALMER, a member of the FBI’s elite Art and Antiquities unit is assigned the case. Nicole is charged with determining if the LONDON MONA LISA is, in fact, the GOLDSTEIN MONA LISA.
When Nicole arrives in London, she works with the Scotland Yard Art Squad. DAME AMANDA, Raffles and his friend BUNNY MANDERS hear out Nicole's contention, that the Barnaby painting that they are auctioning off is the Goldstein Mona Lisa. Their rejection launches Nicole into an investigation to locate the stolen painting. In the meantime, Bunny and Raffles focus on thwarting the Russians.
Bunny outlines the challenge: there are as many as 60 Mona Lisa paintings of varying quality created not only by Leonardo but some by his studio assistants and students and his contemporaries scattered across the globe. The various paintings all vary in quality, condition, chemical composition, paint, brush-strokes, canvass or board, and age. And others are forgeries, created throughout the last 500 years.
The Barnaby Auction commences the next morning. The price soars to $30 Million dollars as Igor, SOPHIA MAGGIONI, a technology entrepreneur and one of Europe’s wealthiest industrialists, IKEDA HIROKI, a successful low-end gallery and online art sales site operator of uncertain pedigree, and RINKU GUPTA - a wealth nouveau-riche expatriate bid furiously for the painting. Gupta wins, leaving Igor angry and frustrated.
What Igor cannot acquire honestly he will steal. His goons burgle Gupta’s flat and steal the painting. Gupta complains to Scotland Yard. Suspicion falls immediately on Igor. Aided by Nicole, and also suspicious of Igor as a known associate of Titov, Scotland Yard searches Igor’s house but finds no evidence of the stolen painting. Igor’s triumph is turned on his head when the painting he burgled is burgled from him.
That triggers a mad scramble as the characters try to outfox one another and identify and gain control of a Mona Lisa. Convention wisdom holds that only the Louvre has one. The characters learn that Switzerland has an authenticated Mona Lisa, and in addition to the Barnaby’s Mona Lisa, that possible originals also exist in Toledo, Lake Como, and in the hands of Sophia.
From London to Toledo, the lush English countryside of Devon to Lake Como, the players punch and counter-punch. Through it all, Nicole seeks to track down the provenance of the Barnaby’s painting in hopes of proving that it was the Goldstein’s painting, which would entitle authorities to seize it. Raffles realizes that Igor is a wily adversary, and devises a scheme to entangle Igor in a fatal web of illusion and delusion.
Ingenious, unruffled, Raffles is a hero who sees the absurdities of the world and finds them amusing, and displays fortitude and imagination in resolving the hidden mysteries that reveal which paintings thought to be copies prove genuine, and delivering to the Russians their just desserts.