All I want in this stupid world is for SOMEONE to develop a movie or limited series based on The Devil in the White City that we will ACTUALLY get to see. Following the announcement back in August that Keanu Reeves would star in a limited series for Hulu, to be directed (at least in part) by Todd Field, and produced by Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, Keanu has left the project. And worse! Todd Field, riding high on the ecstatic reception of his long-gestating third film, Tár, has also left the project. So now The Devil in the White City is back to square one, with Scorsese and DiCaprio still attached to produce, but no star and no director(s). Leonardo DiCaprio refuses to do two things, 1) date women over 25, and 2) make The Devil in the White City.
Keanu was going to play architect Daniel Burnham, by the way. I cannot see that at all, but now I will be haunted forever by the possibilities. This is my white whale, I am going to die wishing for an adaptation of The Devil in the White City, one of the very few true crime stories that is inherently cinematic and ripe for adaptation.
I actually have a conspiracy theory about what just happened. DiCaprio bought the film rights back in 2010, and he’s been squatting on them ever since like Smaug hoarding gold. In order to retain film rights, though, you have to keep the project in active development. That is a broad, almost meaningless classification, but it basically means that in some capacity, you have to be working toward completing a screen adaptation that people can actually watch. You can’t just buy rights and sit on them forever; the point of optioning the rights to a book, article, podcast, what have you, is to make something out of it. For instance, the rights to Daredevil reverted to Marvel back in 2013 after Fox failed to get a new movie project off the ground by their October 2012 deadline. Marvel, then, was able to develop a new TV show based on the character.
Given that Keanu came onto and fell off this project in just two months, and that Field departed, too, my conspiracy theory is that there was never any intention to adapt White City with Keanu. It was a hasty deal to keep the rights, and once it became clear there was no there there, Reeves left, with Field following for similar reason. My evidence: none. I mean, besides the fact they never found a Holmes to pair with Reeves’ Burnham. You think they would be casting those two fairly close together, as they are the narrative anchors of the whole thing. Those are your stars, your leading couple, if you will.
But other than that, this is just my cynicism speaking because every few years, news about White City flares up and then dies down and nothing ever comes of any it, but DiCaprio keeps that option that prevents anyone else from, you know, actually making the thing. It happened in 2015, it happened in 2019, it happened in 2022. Hulu has this show dated for sometime in 2024, but I’d probably die of shock if it actually happens. At this rate, DiCaprio will actually commit to Gigi Hadid before he does The Devil in the White City.