Hollywood Brief: Keanu Reeves, ‘Serial Killer?’ Audrey Hepburn Biopic

Plus, guest columnist Jeff Sneider has details on Brad Pitt’s newest project
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Keanu Reeves, Serial Killer?

Keanu Reeves is heading to television, as he’s in negotiations to star in a big-budget series adaptation of The Devil in the White City, based on the 2003 book by Erik Larson that I’ve planning to read for years. I literally just put the book on my nightstand the day before this news was announced. The project has been in the works for several years at Hulu, and Reeves’ casting would be another coup for the streamer, which has worked with A-listers such as Nicole Kidman (Nine Perfect Strangers), Reese Witherspoon (Little Fires Everywhere) and Michael Keaton (Dopesick) of late.

Based on a true story, The Devil in the White City follows a brilliant architect named Daniel H. Burnham and a cunning doctor named Henry H. Holmes, whose fates collide at Chicago’s World’s Fair in 1893. The twist? Holmes also happens to be a serial killer who has fashioned his very own “murder castle” on fairgrounds, where he would seduce women before killing them.

It’s still unclear which role Reeves will tackle, but seeing as how executive producer Leonardo DiCaprio was once attached to play Holmes, I think it’s safe to assume that Reeves will be taking over that role. He has, of course, played both an architect and a serial killer before, in Knock Knock and The Watcher, respectively. The Devil in the White City would be his first major TV role, and from what I understand, it’s an excellent piece of material.

The book is in good hands behind the camera as well, as Todd Field is set to direct the first two episodes of the limited series, which boasts Martin Scorsese as an executive producer alongside DiCaprio, who first acquired the rights to the book back in 2010, when he planned to develop it as a feature. Of course, true-crime limited series are all the rage these days, as I’m sure this one will be when it eventually debuts, likely in 2023.

And since we’re talking about true-crime books, here are five of my favorites:

1. American Kingpin by Nick Bilton – The incredible true story of the Silk Road and its idealistic but misguided founder Ross Ulbricht, better known across the internet as the infamous Dread Pirate Roberts.

2. Two of a Kind by Darcy O’Brien – The man who prosecuted the Hillside Strangler case sheds new light on deranged cousins Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono and their local reign of terror.

3. The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum – This exceptionally bleak horror novel is loosely based on the 1965 murder of Sylvia Likens, who was chained up and tortured by her caregiver Gertrude Baniszewski, as well as Baniszewski’s children and several other teens from the neighborhood. Not for the faint of heart.

4. The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi – An Italian journalist teams with an American author to investigate a serial killer targeting couples in the Italian countryside. The killer has never been caught, but a TV show starring Antonio Banderas as Spezi is on the horizon.

5. A Father’s Story by Lionel Dahmer – Jeffrey Dahmer‘s father long suspected there was something wrong with his son, but even he never could’ve imagined the monster Jeff would become. This is an utterly fascinating and profoundly sad true-crime book offering a unique perspective from the relative of a serial killer.

sat hari khalsa brad pitt
Brad Pitt attends the premiere of 20th Century Fox’s “Ad Astra”

Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Brad Pitt Takes the Wheel and Napoleon Takes a Wife

Apple is nearing a megabucks deal for a racing movie starring Brad Pitt that hails from director Joseph Kosinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Pitt is poised to play a driver who comes out of retirement to mentor a young racer and take his final stab at glory as the young driver’s teammate.

I assume, by the way, that the young driver will be male, but Kosinski could set this film apart from so many others in the genre if he cast a young actress behind the wheel. I’m not saying that for the sake of gender-blind casting, but because it would actually be interesting.

Either way, the untitled project will reportedly cost between $225 million, which includes Pitt’s $40 million salary as both an actor and a producer. It sounds like a lot of money, but the truth is that that’s what a top-tier package costs these days, whether you’re a streamer or a studio. Everyone pays a premium just to keep a movie out of Netflix’s hands.

Kosinski and Bruckheimer have Top Gun: Maverick coming out later this year (hopefully) and that movie looks kind of incredible, so I’m not surprised that Apple leapt at this package, which seems far more commercial than, say, Killers of the Flower Moon or Emancipation. It feels like a big bet with the best chance of paying off. Ironically, Pitt and Kosinski nearly worked together once before on a racing movie titled Go Like Hell, which eventually became Ford v Ferrari.

That wasn’t the only big Apple news this week, as it was revealed that Vanessa Kirby will replace Jodie Comer in Ridley Scott‘s Kitbag, which stars Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon Bonaparte.

Comer had been poised to play Napoleon’s wife, Josephine, in the film, which would’ve reunited her with Scott on the heels of The Last Duel. Instead, Kirby takes over the role, which may be for the best considering The Last Duel‘s box office performance. Comer is the Emmy-winning star of Killing Eve, who also scored a hit this year with Free Guy, but Kirby is an Oscar-nominated actress (Pieces of a Woman) better known to movie audiences thanks to her work in the Mission: Impossible and Fast & Furious franchises.

Kitbag (not a great name) will juxtapose Napoleon’s political rise and his triumphs on the battlefield with his and Josephine’s romance. Production is slated to start in Europe at the end of the month, and while Scott works fast, I can’t imagine he was going to wrap this historical epic by March, when Comer was due to begin rehearsals for her first West End stage production Prima Facie. She called the scheduling conflict “rubbish” on Scott Feinberg‘s Awards Chatter podcast.

Comer was good in both Free Guy and The Last Duel, but I can’t wait to see her reprise her role as Villanelle one last time when the fourth and final season of Killing Eve debuts on Feb. 27. She’ll be just fine without Kitbag.

Rooney Mara attends the 2021 Gotham Awards (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

Hollywood Fires Up Biopics of Two of Its Legends

Audrey Hepburn and Gene Kelly are both Hollywood legends, so it’s only appropriate that both actors will be the subjects of upcoming biopics in which they’ll be played by The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Captain America, respectively.

Two-time Oscar nominee Rooney Mara is set to play Hepburn for Oscar-nominated director Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name), who will direct from a script by Michael Mitnick (The Current War). The project is in the works at Apple, which has been acquiring one hot package after another, as outlined above.

Hepburn is an EGOT winner (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) best known for her work in classic films such as Breakfast at Tiffany’sCharadeMy Fair LadySabrina, and my personal favorite, Wait Until Dark. Frankly, I thought we’d see a remake of that Warner Bros. thriller before a Hepburn biopic, but her life and career are certainly worthy of such treatment, and Guadagnino is an interesting choice to take the helm.

Meanwhile, Chris Evans will play song-and-dance man Kelly in an untitled project from Sweeney Todd scribe John Logan, who will produce alongside Evans. The Marvel hero actually hatched the idea for this film, which will follow a 12-year-old boy who works on the MGM lot in the 1950s and finds an imaginary friend in Kelly while working on his newest film.

There’s no director or studio attached yet, but the project boasts Rian Johnson and Ram Bergman as producers, the duo having recently worked with Evans on Knives Out. Evans is poised for a major year between Pixar’s Lightyear and the Russo brothers‘ big-budget Netflix movie The Gray Man, which pits him against Ryan Gosling.

Evans is the second Marvel star to sign up to play a song-and-dance man, as Spider-Man himself, Tom Holland, is set to play Fred Astaire in an upcoming biopic from Sony. Jamie Bell, who also played a superhero in 2015’s Fantastic Four, is also poised to play Astaire in Amazon’s Fred & Ginger, which is slated to co-star Margaret Qualley as Ginger Rogers. By this logic, it’s only a matter of time before she joins the MCU.

Of course, the real question is whether audiences will actually want to watch biopics about Hepburn and Kelly. I can actually see the Audrey Hepburn movie striking a chord with younger audiences, but I have a hard time imagining a Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire biopic becoming a hit. Musicals have certainly struggled at the box office lately (In the HeightsDear Evan HansenWest Side Story) but hey, the box office is cyclical, so what’s hot today could be cold tomorrow, and vice versa.

Sopranos Star Returns to HBO

The White Lotus was one of the best shows of last year, and though it was originally conceived as a limited series on HBO, it was such a word-of-mouth hit that the network decided to bring it back for a second season so long as creator Mike White had an idea for one. As it turns out, he did!

It was announced this week that Michael Imperioli is set to star in Season 2, and he’s certainly no stranger to the network, having played Christopher Moltisanti in The Sopranos, which is probably the single greatest TV show of all time. Imperioli never found the right vehicle for himself after The Sopranos, but The White Lotus could be huge for his career, and that’s one of things I’ve always liked about HBO. They do right by their talent. I don’t know if HBO suggested Imperioli or if White had him in mind all along, but regardless of who threw his name out there first, I love this piece of casting.

Imperioli will play Dominic Di Grasso, who travels to the White Lotus resort with his elderly father and recent college grad son in tow. It sounds like a great role for him, plus that other pair of roles instantly become two of the hottest parts in town.

While Jennifer Coolidge has been rumored to return next season, HBO has yet to confirm her casting, making Imperioil the first official cast member for Season 2. Of course, it still remains unclear where Season 2 will take place, as there are conceivably White Lotus resorts all over the world, which is why the show lends itself so well to an anthology format.

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