Quentin Tarantino might be working on a new film based on the Tate-LaBianca murders by the Manson family, but he’s not the only director pivoting into true crime. Now, actor Leonardo DiCaprio and director Martin Scorsese are teaming up for two new true-crime projects based on books: adaptations of Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City and The Lost City of Z writer David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon.
Scorsese is currently working on his upcoming film, The Irishman, which he’ll begin filming with Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci in September, but his longtime production designer Dante Ferretti told Variety the director hoped to begin filming Killers of the Flower Moon in the coming spring after completing The Irishman.
The book—and film—charts one of the first investigations by the then nascent FBI—an inquiry into a series of murders of members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma (which the agency botched); Ferretti was heading to Oklahoma to begin scouting for Killers of the Flower Moon because “the whole 1920s world of the Indians who lived there needs to be reconstructed,” he said. The production company Imperative Entertainment purchased rights to the film last year, before the book debuted in April of this year, and sought out DiCaprio and Scorsese to develop the project. An Imperative representative told Variety there are no other names attached to the film at the moment—though, with DiCaprio and Scorsese’s co-sign, that’s probably not their most pressing concern.
And while DiCaprio acquired the rights to adapt The Devil in the White City back in 2010, it will follow Killers of the Flower Moon in the sequence of projects he’s developing with Scorsese—so it’s no wonder he doesn’t work out, because when would he find the time? (Rights for Larson’s 2011 book, In the Garden of Beasts, an account of an American family living in Nazi Germany, were purchased by Tom Hanks the same year it debuted.) The Devil in the White City is true crime story about the parallel journeys of two men who played critical roles in the 1983 World’s Fair: Daniel Burnham, the chief architect of the fair, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer who murdered as many as 200 individuals during its six-month run.
DiCaprio brought Scorsese on board last year; the script is reportedly nearing completion, though Scorsese put the project on hold while he finished his latest film, Silence. (The Devil in the White City may have been in the works for seven years now, it’s got nothing on Silence, a film 28 years in the making.)
DiCaprio hasn’t appeared in a film since he won the Best Actor Oscar for his leading role in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant, but he’s been actively producing movies—primarily environmentally minded documentaries, like the climate-change film Before the Flood and Oscar nominee Virunga, a film about a team working to save mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Virunga National Park amid the nation’s political and social unrest. (There are worse ways to distract oneself from a recent breakup.)
Now, with Killers of the Flower Moon and The Devil in the White City, DiCaprio enters a new era: the age of peak true crime.
True crime is by no means a new fascination: Audiences have long held a morbid curiosity about gruesome murders and unthinkable tragedies. (Think, for example, of the plethora of adaptations based on the Manson family murders, both fictionalized and reported, of which Tarantino’s upcoming film is just the latest.) But with series like the podcast Serial (and those that followed, like In the Dark and My Favorite Murder), the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer, and Ryan Murphy’s anthology American Crime Story, pop culture has recently begun to capitalize on our darkest interests with unprecedented vigor, and with a wider reach than ever before.
Now, true crime is heading towards Hollywood, endorsed by three marquee names of the industry. Both The Devil in the White City and Killers of the Flower Moon are responsible, amply reported accounts of their respective crimes, but they’re part of a larger movement nevertheless. Because you know what they say: Three’s a trend.
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