It was over a year ago when word first broke that Leonardo DiCaprio would be portraying H.H. Holmes, the first real serial killer in America, in an adaptation of Erik Larson’s nonfiction book The Devil in the White City, and now finally the project has a screenwriter after being picked up by Warner Bros.
The studio has set Graham Moore to script the story of Dr. Holmes. Moore previously had a spec script, The Imitation Game, acquired by Warner Bros. in a 7-figure deal before it was judged to be the top script on the 2011 Black List (the 10 best unproduced screenplays of the year) that was released earlier this week.
Appian Way partners DiCaprio and Jennifer Killoran and Double Features partners Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher will produce The Devil in the White City, which details the 19th Century equivalent of Hannibal Lecter. A cunning charmer, Holmes preyed on anywhere from 27 to 200 people at a time when the city of Chicago was enthralled with hosting the World’s Fair of 1893. Holmes constructed The World’s Fair Hotel, an inn more lethal than the Bates Motel, especially for young single women. The sociopath used charm and guile to lure guests into what became known as a “murder castle,” a haunt that had a gas chamber, crematorium, and a dissecting table where Holmes would murder his victims and strip their skeletons to sell for medical and scientific study.
Moore, a transplanted Chicagoan who now works in Los Angeles, told Deadline he has been “obsessed with Devil in the White City [official title The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America] for a decade. My high school was 50 yard away from where the Chicago World’s Fair was held, and I played soccer on a field near where Holmes murdered about 200 people. It was a truly horrible crime, but it’s a very Chicago story. Though I moved to LA, I think of myself as fundamentally Midwestern, and in a weird way this is a dark and twisted tribute to my hometown.”
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