Ah the teaming of director Martin Scorsese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio (where’s his Oscar by the way?!!!) has brought some classic films: The Wolf of Wall Street, Gangs of New York, Shutter Island, The Departed and The Aviator. Now another film is about to be added to the list, which will see Scorsese directing his new Robert DeNiro as a serial killer, and boy am I excited about this!
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic And Madness At The Fair That Changed America, is a tale of the US equivalent to Jack the Ripper, and is about a serial killer who is thought to have killed between 27 and 200 people in Chicago. Even more interesting is that this serial killer, called Dr. HH Holmes (DiCaprio), built a hotel where he would murder his victims.
The book, written by Erik Larson and published in 2003, has been ready for a film for a number of years. Warner Brothers owned the rights up until a month ago, and once the rights were freed up, and aggressive bidding war took place. Fox and Universal particularly wanted this, but Paramount seized the rights in a seven figure deal, which would see Scorsese directing and DiCaprio starring.
Billy Ray will write the script. Appian Way’s DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson are producing with Stacey Sher, Scorsese and Emma Tillinger Koskoff.
DiCaprio will play one of the most prolific serial killers in Chicago history, the 19th century equivalent of Hannibal Lecter. He has wanted this for a long time, but the project’s second wind occurred after Warner Bros let the rights lapse a month ago on the 2003 nonfiction book (Graham Moore was among the writers who did drafts) and came out of conversations with Par’s Brad Grey and Scorsese and Yorn about the studio being at the center of the next DiCaprio-Scorsese teaming; the studio released 2013’s The Wolf Of Wall Street, which got five Oscar nominations. Yorn, DiCaprio and Scorsese went out with a new take on the material from Ray that got everybody excited all over again. The trick with this property has been interlacing the two main characters, the producer/architect of the World’s Fair and the man who works for him and turns out to be a mass murderer. Ray cracked that, and the town flipped for it.
DiCaprio will play Dr. HH Holmes, a cunning serial killer believed to have murdered anywhere from 27 to 200 people at a time when the city of Chicago was enthralled with hosting the World’s Fair of 1893. Holmes constructed The World’s Fair Hotel, an inn more lethal than the Bates Motel, especially for young single women. The sociopath used charm and guile to lure guests into what became known as a “murder castle,” a haunt that had a gas chamber, crematorium and a dissecting table where Holmes would murder his victims and strip their skeletons to sell for medical and scientific study.
Here is Amazon’s description, from the back cover of the book:
One man built a heaven on earth. Another built hell beside it.
The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 was one of the great wonders of the world. This is the extraordinary story of its realization, and of two men whose fates it linked: one was an architect, the other a serial killer…
The architect was Daniel H. Burnham. He created the ‘White City’, a massive, visionary landscape of white buildings set in an incandescent wonderland of canals and gardens. The killer was H. H. Holmes, a handsome doctor with intense blue eyes, who used the attraction of the great fair and his own devilish charms to lure scores, perhaps hundreds, of young women to their deaths. And while Burnham overcame politics, infighting, personality clashes and Chicago’s infamous weather to transform the swamps of Jackson Park into the greatest show on Earth, Holmes built his own edifice. He called it the World’s Fair Hotel. In reality it was a torture palace, a gas chamber, a crematorium.
These two disparate yet driven men together with a remarkable supporting cast, including Buffalo Bill, George Ferris and Thomas Edison, are brought to life in this mesmerizing, murderous tale of the spectacle that transformed America and set it on course for the 20th century.