Is there a more unconventionally sexy role than Grigori Rasputin, the “mad monk” of Russian historical lore? The mystic/advisor worked for Tsar Nicholas II, and Rasputin reportedly held great influence over the family, to the extent that his name has become synonymous with the secretive abuse of power. Rasputin said to have been able to bed women and evade violent rivals with ease — until his violent death in 1916, at least.
Now Warner Bros. has picked up a pitch by Jason Hall, the screenwriter of Steven Spielberg’s American Sniper, that will lead to a screenplay about Rasputin. Leonardo DiCaprio‘s Appian Way is involved, and in fact DiCaprio is attached to play Rasputin.
Deadline reveals the pitch deal at WB, and explains that DiCaprio’s interest comes from Hall’s approach to the figure, featuring “the complicated elements of a child who lost the better part of himself when his brother died, and was capable of kindness but also a ruthlessness.”
That’s an interesting start to approach a figure who has been controversial and mysterious for decades. There’s a great deal of speculation about the true history of Rasputin, and much of the writing on him is potentially skewed or simply fabricated. Rasputin is attached to the fall of the Romanov Dynasty, which was destroyed only months after his death during the dual revolutionary phases of 1917 that led to Bolshevik rule. He was in a position of power as the nature of power was changing in Russia, and few definitive accounts that can be divorced from bias.
With all the conflicting writing about his life, there are any number of directions the film could take; we’ll see if Hall is up to the task of sorting it out.