For much of Leonardo DiCaprio’s career, the actor seemed to be continuously handed the same fate as his regular collaborator, Martin Scorsese. Both talents would work to create films that were lauded by critics and audiences alike, only to have them ignored by Hollywood’s biggest honor, The Academy Awards. Despite some very impressive turns in several of the biggest films of the last few decades, DiCaprio’s talents simply could not secure that one elusive accolade.
Of course, all that changed in 2015 when DiCaprio was finally handed the Best Actor Oscar for his visceral performance in The Revenant. For his part, Scorsese was also finally recognized by the Academy with a Best Director trophy in 2006 for The Departed. Now that the two have their awards, however, many are wondering what DiCaprio’s next role will be and whether or not he’ll reunite with Scorsese in hopes of the two finally gaining Oscars on the same project.
Well, at present time there doesn’t seem to be any plans for the two to join forces - and while DiCaprio still hasn’t closed the deal on his next film, Variety is reporting that the Oscar-winning actor is now attached to play legendary music producer Sam Phillips, as well as produce the biopic. Paramount Pictures has acquired the rights to the biography Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘N’ Roll and are still looking for both a writer and director for the project.
Sam Phillips was most notable for his work in the music industry of the 1940s and 1950s and was responsible for discovering (as well as recording) Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley, amongst a host of others. As founder of both Sun Studios and Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee, Phillips was instrumental in helping to popularize musical forms like Rock ‘N’ Roll as well as Rockabilly. His Sun Studios is an official National Historic Landmark and he was among the first group of inductees to the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame. He was most recently depicted on screen in 2005 by Dallas Roberts (The Walking Dead, The Good Wife) in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line.
It’s always interesting to see Leonardo DiCaprio lining up a new project, but with this particular film, there’s already a good chance that he could be heading for controversy. Many people strongly disagree with the notion that Sam Phillips “invented” Rock ‘N’ Roll and that instead, he merely exploited a musical format that was pioneered by the African American community through early genres like gospel and rhythm and blues. With Hollywood’s recent controversies such as the #OscarsSoWhite campaign and accusations of whitewashing, a film that bills Sam Phillips as the originator of Rock ‘N’ Roll could be headed for trouble.
There’s still a great deal to be sorted out on this project however, and simply because the source material refers to Sam Phillips as the man who invented Rock ‘N’ Roll does not necessarily mean that this is the same point of view that the film will take. Without a writer or a director or even DiCaprio officially committing to this as his next film, it’s best to leave the assumptions about exactly what this biopic will be behind and keep an open mind for the time being.
We'll bring you more details on the Sam Phillips biopic as they become available.