Leonardo DiCaprio Will Murder as 'The Devil in the White City'

November 1, 2010
Source: Deadline

Devil in the White City / Leo DiCaprio

We've already reported that Clint Eastwood's forthcoming biopic Hoover will see Leonardo DiCaprio as the titular FBI director of the same name, but following that project, the actor has lined up quite a role like nothing he's ever done before. Deadline reports DiCaprio's Appian Way production banner has teamed with Double Features to snag the rights to The Devil in the White City, a non-fiction book by Erik Larson that tells the story of H.H. Holmes, one of the first documented American serial killers who is believed to have murdered anywhere from 27 to 200 people when the city of Chicago was enthralled with hosting the World's Fair of 1893.

In a scheme that would make Jigsaw blush, Holmes manipulated an old woman into selling her cancer-stricken husband's drug store only to "move to California" shortly thereafter. Then he purchased a lot across from the drugstore where he built his three-story, block-long "castle" as it came to be known in the neighborhood. It was opened as a hotel for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, with part of the structure used as commercial space. That may not sound too bad just yet, but stick with me because the story gets better.

The ground floor of the Castle contained Holmes's own relocated drugstore and various shops, while the upper two floors contained his personal office and a maze of over one hundred windowless rooms with doorways opening to brick walls, oddly angled hallways, stairways to nowhere, doors openable only from the outside, and a host of other strange and labyrinthine constructions. Holmes repeatedly changed builders during the construction of the Castle so only he fully understood the design of the house, and thus, decreasing the chance of being reported to the police. Now you see where we're going?

After the completion of the hotel, Holmes selected mostly female victims from among his employees (many of whom were required as a condition of employment to take out life insurance policies for which Holmes would pay the premiums but also be the beneficiary), lovers and hotel guests, torturing and killing them. Some were locked in soundproof bedrooms fitted with gas lines that let him asphyxiate them at any time. Some victims were locked in a huge soundproof bank vault near his office where they were left to suffocate. The victims' bodies were dropped by secret chute to the basement, where some were meticulously dissected, stripped of flesh, crafted into skeleton models, and then sold to medical schools.

Apparently DiCaprio has long been fascinated with the story. Some years back, Tom Cruise had optioned the book in question as a starring vehicle for himself while DiCaprio set up a rival project with plans to use information in the public domain to tell the story of Holmes' murder spree. But recently the rights became available again, and DiCaprio lunged at the opportunity to snatch up the rights to the book. Appian Way and Double Features are in the process of finding a writer and will put together a package deal before taking the project to a studio. This sounds like one hell of a thriller and a truly different role for DiCaprio. Thanks to Wikipedia for a lot of the information above! Interested?

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Reader Feedback - 17 Comments


looks like we have a winner. I'm so seeing this when it gets made

zedsdead on Nov 1, 2010


O.O I'm in! The whole plot sounds incredible, and it will be fun to see DiCaprio as a twisted psychopath. I'm not a big fan of women dying in films (doesn't mean I stay away from films that have women die), but I definitely have to see this!

Xerxex on Nov 1, 2010


This sounds great! Another hit for Leo in the making. I'm ready.

Taniab on Nov 1, 2010


sounds awesome +leo = win

filmfan111 on Nov 1, 2010


Leo is a fantastic actor, and I am so glad he successfully shed that long sticking pretty-boy, heartthrob image Titanic slapped on him. I believe he can take on every role and make the character believable. This is gonna be amazing!

SuicidalOptimist on Nov 1, 2010


I like the copy/paste of the whole story from Wikipedia....... hahaha. But yeah, this sounds good. Especially with Leo.

Chazzy on Nov 1, 2010


Now this is something to look forward to! REALLY excited!

Chad on Nov 1, 2010


This is one of my favorite books! However, I kind of pictured Ryan Gosling as H.H. Holmes for some reason.

Kevin on Nov 1, 2010


chazzy info is info is info, who cares if its C&P.

Xerxex on Nov 1, 2010


Great move, great novel, great story. I've been wanting to see a quality adaptation of this macabe slice of American history.

uberman on Nov 1, 2010


Leo looks more and more like Orson Welles. Shutter Island...dead on with a hint of Touch Of Evil.

wm on Nov 2, 2010


I will say this in any story related to Dicaprio, he better get his fucking oscar this year.

Cody w on Nov 2, 2010


this sounds very interesting. and i agree #12. i thought he should have gotten one for "revolutionary road".

beavis on Nov 2, 2010


Freakin' awesome!

Robbie on Nov 2, 2010


If they get a top notch director to run this, it has lots of potential to be fantastic. If you have not read the book do so; it is a great story.

blester01 on Nov 2, 2010


This is going to be a great flick. I read the book and loved it. On the back cover they coin the subject as "America's Jack The Ripper". Even outside of that struggle there's an amazing story about the story to land the Worlds Fair and an even tougher struggle to pull it off while changing the landscape of Chicago.

Jon Walker on Nov 2, 2010


what happened to this, Alex is it cancelled?

curious cat on Oct 17, 2011

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