After the failure of Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar, which critics took to the woodshed and mainstream audiences largely ignored, one might expect its star, Leonardo DiCaprio, to be disinclined to try his hand at additional political biopics in the immediate future. As it turns out, he actually plans on jumping back into the genre by starring in an adaptation of A. Scott Berg’s fresh-off-the-presses biography of historically controversial American president Woodrow Wilson.
He’ll also serve as a producer on the project through his own Appian Way studio. Currently, the only name talent involved is DiCaprio himself. At the moment, Warner Bros. is negotiating over the rights to Berg’s book, titled Wilson. It’s unknown who will pen the script or helm the film itself, to say nothing of who will co-star alongside DiCaprio.
THR broke the news yesterday, though at this stage of development it’s entirely possible that the announcement will coalesce into nothing. Given DiCaprio’s star power, the early praise being accorded to Berg’s work, and the fact that last year’s Lincoln proved how successful a mainstream presidential prestige movie can be, it seems likely that Wilson will indeed get off the ground at some point; we’ll keep you posted on updates as they become available.
Where does all of this leave us? There’s a reasonable question to be asked as to what kind of biopic one might shape around Wilson’s persona, especially when using Berg’s book as source material. Reportedly, Wilson all but lionizes the man, delving into the accomplishments of his presidency while more or less skirting around his less flattering qualities. When the film gets green-lit, will the position taken by Berg – who considers Wilson his hero – influence the shape of the film. And if so, how?
The answer will likely hinge largely on who winds up writing Wilson - assuming that’s the title the studio goes with – and who ends up steering the ship. A shrewd, calculating, and clever filmmaker could draw on all of Wilson’s components as a leader and paint a nuanced portrait of a complex figure, much as Spielberg did with Lincoln. A film that addresses his stance on civil liberties and civil rights, his enactment of both the Federal Reserve Act and the income tax, and his role in the formation of the League of Nations and the Treaty of Versailles, among other things, could be a great film.
But there’s obviously going to be a waiting period before we begin to get an idea of what Wilson will look like. At the very least, the production’s star has the experience needed to take a person out of history and bring them to life onscreen. Not only has DiCaprio portrayed Hoover, he’s also played Howard Hughes for Scorsese in The Aviator, and he’ll be stepping into the shoes of Jordan Belfort (also for Scorsese) this fall in The Wolf of Wall Street.
Will he make a good Wilson? Or is he better off staying away from biopic dramas of this sort?
We’ll bring the latest news on the Wilson adaptation as more information becomes available.