Over the weekend a bidding war broke out over the rights to adapt a biography of Leonardo da Vinci which will be produced by and star Leonardo DiCaprio because they have the same name. No seriously, allegedly his mother named him “Leonardo” because she was looking at a da Vinci painting when he kicked for the first time. (That sounds like some sh*t you make up because you saddled your kid with an unwieldy name, but okay.) The biography is by Walter Isaacson, the same guy who wrote the Steve Jobs biography that eventually became a movie starring Michael Fassbender. Paramount ended up coughing up seven figures for the rights to the movie, and the da Vinci project will be part of the Paramount/DiCaprio production pact forged last year.
I have to say, I’m merely whelmed. It’s not that I don’t want to see a da Vinci movie—I do. Like Abraham Lincoln, Leonardo da Vinci is obviously a time traveler and I would love to see a movie about his mission to the past but somehow I don’t think this is the movie Leonardo DiCaprio is going to make. I get the feeling this will be a “tortured genius” movie with Leo sweaty and long-haired and making that one face where he sticks out his lower jaw as he tries to convey what a genius he is. I just don’t think “we have the same name” is a good enough reason for someone to get to play a figure like Leonardo da Vinci.
In his biographical collection, Lives of the Artists, Giorgio Vasari—himself a Renaissance painter—writes of da Vinci: “[He was] an artist of outstanding physical beauty who displayed infinite grace in everything he did…” Vasari also calls da Vinci “the most talented improviser in verse of his time”, and dubs him “so lovable”. Vasari is clearly awed by da Vinci—which he is NOT by many of his other subjects, Lives is full of gossip and sh*t-talking—but he spends pages and pages peppering descriptions of da Vinci’s work and process with anecdotes about how fun and beautiful da Vinci is.
Does that really sound like Leonardo DiCaprio? Fun and funny and lovable? Twenty years ago, maybe, but as an adult there’s something flinty in DiCaprio’s expressions, which is why his best performances have been hard cases and bad guys. Da Vinci, it seems, had a twinkle, so the actor who plays him should have a twinkle, too. Matt Bomer, maybe, or even Harry Styles, who turns out is a surprisingly good actor and also has that hard to resist star quality. Jon Hamm? He can twinkle when he wants. There are so many other potentially interesting choices to play da Vinci than Leonardo “We Have The Same Name” DiCaprio. Besides, DiCaprio needs to make that HH Holmes movie based on The Devil in the White City with Martin Scorsese. At this point, not making The Devil in the White City is starting to feel personal. If Devil gets bumped for this da Vinci movie he shouldn’t even be starring in, I am going to be SO annoyed.