Leonardo DiCaprio is no stranger to playing real-life characters, having brought such diverse individuals as J. Edgar Hoover, Howard Hughes, Jordan Belfort and Frank Abagnale Jr. to the screen in fictionalized accounts. DiCaprio received Oscar nominations for his performances as Hughes and Belfort, but didn’t win until last year when he was trophied-up for playing another real-life character: dogged wilderness survivalist Hugh Glass, in The Revenant.
DiCaprio’s previous forays into true-life territory have been so successful, it should be no surprise to hear that the actor is planning to go that route again in more than one upcoming film. It’s been reported that DiCaprio will play legendary music producer Sam Phillips in a biopic, and now a second real-life role has reportedly been added to DiCaprio’s slate.
According to Deadline, Paramount has acquired the rights to the Stephan Talty’s book The Black Hand, an account of turn-of-the-20th-Century cop Joe Petrosino and his battles against the title organization, a group of brutal Italian gangsters. DiCaprio will star as Petrosino and also produce for The Gotham Group and Appian Way. One of Talty’s other books, Captain’s Duty, was successfully adapted into the hit film Captain Phillips starring Tom Hanks, in 2013.
DiCaprio and Paramount were previously reported to be circling another literary property, Beth Macy’s Truevine: Two Brothers, A Kidnapping, and a Mother’s Quest; A True Story of the Jim Crow South, as a starring vehicle for the actor. DiCaprio’s company Appian Way was also reported to be developing a slew of other movies with Paramount, including an adaptation of the book Devil in the White City about an 1890s Chicago serial killer, to star DiCaprio and be directed by Martin Scorsese. The environmentally-conscious DiCaprio is also reportedly working on bringing the pro-environment Captain Planet to the big screen.
Considering the subject matter of The Black Hand – cops, gangsters, brutality, a gritty period setting – it seems fair to speculate on whether this might be another opportunity for DiCaprio to team up with his favorite director Martin Scorsese. The legendary Scorsese previously directed DiCaprio in similar material in Gangs of New York, the movie that launched their fruitful artistic collaboration. The two also delved very successfully into the criminal underworld in the Oscar-winning The Departed.
Scorsese and DiCaprio are already set to work together on Devil in the White City, but considering the production delays that film has experienced, there’s no guarantee that the project will ever get off the ground (though Scorsese was recently reported to be revisiting the script). Maybe if that movie falls through, DiCaprio and Scorsese could work instead on The Black Hand, a story set in a similar time period to Devil in the White City – one that also happens to deal with favorite Scorsese/DiCaprio themes of criminal behavior and violence.