In the Works: Leonardos and More

Leonardo DiCaprio will play Leonardo da Vinci in a film based on Walter Isaacson’s biography, reports Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. John Logan, who’s written Gladiator,Skyfall, and Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator starring DiCaprio, will write this one “while DiCaprio goes off to star in the untitled next film by writer/director Quentin Tarantino in their first teaming since Django Unchained. The da Vinci project is special for DiCaprio, who got his first name because his pregnant mother was looking at a Leonardo da Vinci painting in a museum in Italy when the future star kicked for the first time.”

Fleming also reports that Willem Dafoe will join Edward Norton in Norton’s adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s award-winning novel Motherless Brooklyn. Here’s a bit from Albert Mobilio’s review of the book for the New York Times in 1999:

After the obligatory opening—a stakeout that culminates in the murder of a detective’s boss—Lethem provides a dilatory flashback to fill us in on the principals: Frank Minna, a small-time operator and the chief eminence of a car service-detective agency in downtown Brooklyn, and his “Minna Men,” the four orphans he more or less adopts from St. Vincent’s Home for Boys. Surely, Ross Macdonald would never throw so big a stick into the spokes; Lethem not only takes this risk but further gums up the works by offering as his narrator the hapless gumshoe Lionel Essrog, who suffers from Tourette’s syndrome. Essrog can hardly get out a sentence without jangling its sense with eruptions of “Stickmebailey!” or toss away someone's gun without having to throw another four things, including his shoe. Rituals like this tend to ruffle a detective’s Bogart impression.

Steven Soderbergh will produce and “may actually direct” the “action thriller” Planet Kill, reports Deadline’s Anita Busch. “Scott Z. Burns (Contagion) and James Greer (Unsane) came up with the original story which is being kept under wraps.”

Armando Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield will be “a modern take on Dickens’ semi-autobiographical chronicle,” reports Deadline’s Nancy Tartaglione. Iannucci was recently in Göteborg, talking a bit about, among other things, the project that’ll follow Copperfield, a series for HBO. Vladan Petkovic has taken down his comments for Cineuropa: “All I can tell you is that it is set in the world of space tourism in about thirty to forty years’ time, and it’s going to be called Avenue 5. It’s basically about people who have nothing in common apart from being in space, and they’re trying to work out how to get on with each other. We’ll be shooting the pilot by the end of the year.”

Benoît Jacquot, whose Eva, starring Isabelle Huppert, will premiere in a couple of weeks at the Berlinale, has already begun work on his next project, reports Fabien Lemercier at Cineuropa. Casanova, starting Vincent Lindon, Stacy Martin, Valeria Golino, and Antonythasan Jesuthasan, begins shooting in March. Lemercier notes that “the story sees Charpillon present Casanova with a truly exasperating challenge: you can only have me if you stop wanting me.”

“Douglas Coupland is to adapt his own novel The Gum Thief as a feature film,” reports Deadline’s Peter White. It “tells the story of Roger and Bethany, two Staples employees from North Vancouver very different backgrounds; Roger, a middle-aged alcoholic dealing with an ugly divorce and the loss of his child and Bethany, a young goth working in a McJob, as defined in Coupland’s 1991 book Generation X. When Bethany discovers Roger is basing a character in his novel on her, the story within the story reveals a complex meta-narrative.”

The Men in Black are coming back, and F. Gary Gray is “in negotiations” to direct. The Hollywood Reporter’s Aaron Couch and Mia Galuppo: “The approach is described as being akin to Universal's 2015 film Jurassic World, which revived the Jurassic Park franchise not as a straight reboot, but did bring on new characters that somewhat acknowledged what came before.”

Tate Taylor directed Octavia Spencer in The Help (2011) and will again in Ma, reports Deadline’s Nancy Tartaglione. “Spencer will play a lonely woman who befriends a group of teenagers with torturous consequences for the kids.” Also cast are Juliette Lewis and Luke Evans.

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