Leonardo DiCaprio to Star in The Deep Blue Goodbye

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In what could be the first film in a noirish franchise for 20th Century Fox, Leonardo DiCaprio is attached to star as Travis McGee, a fictional Floridian gumshoe who lives on a houseboat, in The Deep Blue Goodbye. The film is an adaptation of the popular 1964 novel—nearly identical in title—by late pulp-fiction author John D. MacDonald. It marked the debut in an influential, entertaining 21-book series that spans an American landscape from the Kennedy to the Regan administrations. A director was not mentioned in the trades. The screenplay was written by Dana Stevens (Sam Raimi’s For the Love of the Game, Blink).

In the novel, McGee, a trusty and attractive 6′ 4″ bachelor, faces anxiety and financial woes and works as a “salvager” in Fort Lauderdale, collecting monies and property for his clients. The plot revolves around treasure buried in the Florida Keys during WWII, a murderous felon who catches wind of this while incarcerated, and an eventual showdown between the two. Also: shady women with bedroom eyes. McGee’s aforementioned houseboat is called the Busted Flush, a prize won in a poker game that helps define his marina-bum lifestyle. While I’m a big fan of writers like Elmore Leonard (similarly fond of Florida), Gregory McDonald (Fletch mysteries), and Raymond Chandler (The Long Goodbye), I haven’t read the book, but plan to pick up a copy asap. The original jacket is killer (below).

Summer of 2008, I reported that Robert Downey Jr. was circling the project before joining Sherlock Holmes. This sounds like a great fit for DiCaprio, and immediately reminds me of Gene Hackman’s Night Moves, a solid mystery flick directed by Arthur Penn, that’s set partially in the freewheeling Keys to dramatic, sensual effect. Goodbye is one of the first projects being set-up by Peter Chernin, who left News Corp. this summer and became CEO and chairman at Fox. The studio’s involvement in the project causes the dismay of some, but I’ll hold out for a director’s announcement. Bountiful creative relationship aside, it will be nice to see DiCaprio off a Martin Scorsese film, just to change things up.

The actor’s next movies include 2010′s Shutter Island from Scorsese and Inception, the tripped-out sci-fi tentpole from Christopher Nolan. DiCaprio was said to be up in August for Ridley Scott’s passion epic A Brave New World, and the Scorsese biopic, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, looms somewhere in the next decade.

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