November 2, 2010 / 6:32 AM / 8 years ago

Leonardo DiCaprio to play serial killer in "Devil"

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Leonardo DiCaprio is attached to star in an adaptation of the bestseller “The Devil in the White City,” a project he will also produce.

Cast member Leonardo DiCaprio attends a news conference to promote the movie "Inception" in Tokyo July 21, 2010. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Erik Larson’s acclaimed novel spent three years on the New York Times bestseller list, has sold 2.3 million copies and has been translated into 17 languages.

The nonfiction story focuses on the lives of two men who turned the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair into their playground. One man, Daniel H. Burnham, the architect responsible for the fair’s construction, in a short period of time was forced to overcome immense obstacles to construct the famous “White City” around which the fair was built.

DiCaprio would play the other man, H.H. Holmes, a serial killer masquerading as a charming doctor. Believed to be responsible for scores of murders around the time of the fair, Holmes devised and erected the World’s Fair Hotel, complete with crematorium and gas chamber, near the fairgrounds and used the event as well as his own charismatic personality to lure victims to their death.

“White City” has long captivated Hollywood’s top talent, although the period setting always seemed to pose budgetary roadblocks. Kathryn Bigelow was attached to direct and produce at one point, and Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner were also developing an adaptation.

Paramount owned the option at two stages. Right now, it has no studio home or financing, although DiCaprio’s involvement may change that sooner than later. His Appian Way banner has joined forces with Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher, the principals of Double Feature. The plan now is to find a writer or a writer-director to help nail down the vast story, then move to setting it up.

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