The fact that Tom Hanks has a thing for historical dramas and period pieces is no secret; besides his starring in titles such as Saving Private Ryan, and Charlie Wilson's War, the two-time Oscar-winner has also executive produced HBO TV mini-series like Band of Brothers, John Adams, and The Pacific. Not to mention, Hanks wrote, directed, and starred in the 1960s-set flick That Thing You Do!.
Hanks is going back in time again with In the Garden of Beasts, a film adaptation of Erik Larson's best-selling non-fiction book that examines the early days (re: pre-W.W. II) of Nazi Germany. Universal has set up the project to be produced by Hanks and Gary Goetzman (The Silence of the Lambs, Beloved) through the pair's Playtone banner.
THR says that Hanks is also eying In the Garden of Beasts as a potential starring vehicle. The man has recently been working on the Wachowski siblings' Cloud Atlas adaptation and will next appear in Paul Greengrass' A Captain's Duty adaptation, which is slated to begin shooting by February 2012. However, all things considered, Hanks' schedule should be relatively open by the time the Garden of Beasts project is actually ready to begin production.
Here is an official plot summary for Larson's recently-published source material, which is fully titled "In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin":
The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history. A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha... Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance--and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.
Larson's other well-known (and liked) non-fiction historical thriller, The Devil and the White City, is also being adapted into cinematic form by a decorated actor/producer - namely, Leonardo DiCaprio.
If Hanks does indeed decide to headline In The Garden of Beasts, that should make it all the easier to convince a high-pedigree filmmaker to sign on for the historical drama. Plus, the source material is very popular and offers a different perspective on the beginnings of W.W. II (one of Hollywood's favorite subjects) than most previously-released studio productions that examine that time period. So, that in mind, don't be surprised to hear about both a name screenwriter and director being brought onboard for the project in the future.
We will keep you posted on the status of In the Garden of Beasts as the story develops.