Devil in the White City movie

There was a lot of talk about whether or not Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio intended audience sympathies to lie with the lead character in their last collaboration, The Wolf of Wall Street. For their next film together, there won’t be any such uncertainty about how they view DiCaprio’s character.

The book Devil in the White City, which among other things follows a faux doctor and real serial killer who haunted Chicago during the days of the 1893 World’s Fair, has been in development with various major film studios for over a decade.

Now Devil in the White City is back at Paramount, and Leonardo DiCaprio has brought Martin Scorsese onto the project. DiCaprio will play the killer, and Scorsese will direct.

THR reports that this is likely to be Scorsese’s next film. There’s probably a book to be written here about the various efforts to produce a film based on the book by Erik Larson — a film which at one time might have been made with Kathryn Bigelow directing Tom Cruise — but for the time being let’s focus on this current development.

The very heavily researched and detailed historical novel tells the story of Daniel H.Burnham, the architect tasked with building the site of the World’s Columbian Exposition, aka the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The Fair was essentially an entire city that needed to be built in two years. Parallel to Burnham’s work are the nefarious actions of H.H. Holmes, who posed as a doctor and constructed his own incredible structure in which he carried out shocking crimes.

The novel contains such stories as the creation of the first Ferris Wheel, and historic figures as Buffalo Bill Cody, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, and especially Nikola Tesla, who had his first major public success as his Alternating Current standard lit the entire fair.

On the page any of those characters are the major stars. On screen, the greatest attraction of the film might be the World’s Fair itself. Imagine the great CG we saw in Scorsese’s films like Hugo and especially The Wolf of Wall Street. Now think of that CG applied to the “Dream City” of the Columbian Exposition, a sprawling city in white, a great monument of the Gilded Age, all the more appropriate for being a temporary city that had to stand for only six months. These are a few photos of the Fair; I’m excited to see what Scorsese and his crew might create.

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