EXCLUSIVE: HBO Films is developing Gorbachev, a movie about former Soviet Union president Mikhail Gorbachev from Leonardo DiCaprio‘s Appian Way and Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman’s Playtone. Gorbachev serves as a consultant on the project, which captures the dissolution of the USSR through his eyes. Gorbachev was the first and last President of the Soviet Union, serving from 1988 until the union’s dissolution in 1991. He ushered democracy into the Soviet block by introducing glasnost and perestroika and helped end the Cold War.
The movie, written by former Hell On Wheels showrunner John Shiban and executive produced by DiCaprio, Jennifer Killoran, Hanks, Goetzman and Industry Entertainment’s Keith Addis, stems from DiCaprio’s relationship with Gorbachev. The two met when the Russian Nobel Peace Prize winner appeared in DiCaprio’s environmental movie The 11th Hour. Gorbachev later presented the actor with an environmental award at the Cinema for Peace Gala in Berlin. Appian Way and Addis originally developed the project with another writer, Paul Webb. Shiban came in with a new take. The pitch was taken to HBO, which came on board and brought in its go-to producers for marquee long-form projects, Playtone. In addition to Gorbachev, serving as consultants on the movie are Gorbachev’s long-time aide Pavel Palazhchenko, who started off as his interpreter and eventually became the head of the International Department of the The Gorbachev Foundation; journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer David E. Hoffman, who served as the Moscow bureau chief of The Washington Post from 1995-2001; and Serbian director Dejan Karaklajić.
Gorbachev marks a reunion for DiCaprio and Hanks, who starred together in Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can. Playtone is repped by CAA, which also repped Gorbachev in the deal. ICM Partners-repped Shiban served as showrunner on the first two seasons of AMC’s Hell On Wheels and recently partnered with Kurt Sutter for Lucas Stand, a dark action/horror drama series project at FX.