Leonardo DiCaprio wants to play his namesake Leonardo da Vinci in a movie. The question is, which studio is going to pony up for Walter Isaacson’s new book about the legendary artist/inventor and give The Revenant star an opportunity to win his second Oscar?
8/12 UPDATE: Paramount has indeed come out as the winner in this battle to get the rights to Walter Isaacson’s Leonardo da Vinci book for DiCaprio to play the role, and as mentioned earlier, the actor’s Appian Way will co-produce the movie. This will be Paramount’s third movie with DiCaprio following 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street and Shutter Island in 2010, both with Martin Scorsese. DiCaprio earned two of his six Oscar nominations for the former.
Yesterday, Universal and Paramount were locked in a heated battle for the book heading into the weekend, and while Paramount is believed to have a slight edge given the fact that it has a first-look deal with DiCaprio’s Appian Way banner, it may come down to money… and whether Paramount has any to spend on this kind of prestige literary acquisition.
Paramount has been waiting on a $500 million investment from China’s Huahua Media that has yet to arrive, which has reportedly prompted studio executives to fly to China to try and rescue a deal that has been discouraged by the Chinese government. If the studio is low on funds, is it really wise to plunk down big bucks for a Leonardo da Vinci book just weeks before the studio starts releasing its fall slate?
Universal is believed to have made a very strong offer for the project, but Paramount is well within its right to match it under the terms of its deal with Appian Way. The only reason Paramount wouldn’t come away from this book battle victorious is if its war chest is running low. But let’s say money isn’t a factor, and take it out of the equation.
If there’s any reason Isaacson opts against choosing Universal, it may be the fact that the studio wound up with the Steve Jobs movie based on his biography of the Apple co-founder, and despite a great writer, director and cast, the movie failed to make much of a dent with critics or ticket buyers (though I personally liked it quite a bit).
Regardless of which studio wins, expect Appian Way to produce this movie as a potential star vehicle for DiCaprio, who still hasn’t decided what he wants to do next. He’s also attached to star in Paramount’s The Devil and the White City as well as several other projects around town, all of which seem to be moving quite slowly despite DiCaprio’s involvement. And this is an actor-producer who puts a lot of thought into picking his projects.
Isaacson reportedly used Da Vinci’s personal notebooks to research his book, which will be published in October by Simon & Schuster.
Jeff Sneider | Editor in Chief