Leonardo DiCaprio is set to play a real-life serial killer in the film adaptation of the best-selling novel “The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair That Changed America.” The 35-year-old will also produce the film alongside his Appian Way partner Jennifer Killoran and Double Features duo Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher.
According to Deadline, the team has acquired the screen rights to Erik Larson’s 2003 nonfiction novel, which tells the story of the architect of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and the serial killer who terrorized the event. DiCaprio will star as Dr. HH Holmes, the slick serial killer who covers up as a doctor and lures his victims into the World’s Fair Hotel. The structure, which was known as the “murder castle,” included a gas chamber, crematorium and a dissecting table. The role of Daniel H. Burnham, who built the famous fair’s landscape, has not been confirmed.
While Paramount was once affiliated with an adaptation, the film currently has no studio home or financing.
In a statement, DiCaprio’s partner, Killoran, described the novel as “truly a one-of-its-kind American story about our nation’s first serial killer,” adding, “We’re exited to bring it to the big screen.” Shamberg and Sher noted the story’s mass appeal, saying, “This is a big, entertaining thriller in an incredible setting that will appeal to a worldwide audience.”
Killoran credited the Golden Globe-winning actor’s decision to play the evil Holmes to the killer’s complex persona, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “I think that a guy who is that intelligent and that charismatic is nothing less than complex, and it’s that complexity that [DiCaprio] is drawn to,” she said. “And because people don’t know much about [Holmes], it makes it even more interesting.”
DiCaprio isn’t the first Hollywood heavyweight to take up Larson’s novel. Back in 2003, Tom Cruise expressed interest in playing the notorious killer.
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