EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros has made a preemptive acquisition of King Harald, a pitch that Mark L. Smith is writing as a potential vehicle for Leonardo DiCaprio. The subject: Harald Hardrada, the 11th Century conqueror who has been called the last great Viking king. The deal also calls for a blind script deal for Smith, who scripted The Revenant, a New Regency project that has Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu attached to direct, and a potential cast of Sean Penn and DiCaprio. He also scripted for Appian Way Endurance, a movie about Polar explorer Ernest Shackleton, who led an expedition of 28 to the South Pole in 1914. When ice crushed the ship, Shackleton found a way to lead the entire crew back to safety despite the lethal cold. Smith also scripted an untitled biker film for Warner Bros based on an idea by Tom Hardy, who is eyeing it as a star vehicle to play a returning Vietnam vet in the 70s who falls in with a biker gang in San Francisco and then falls for the leader’s girlfriend.
King Harald will be produced by DiCaprio and his Appian Way partner Jennifer Davisson Killoran. King Harald was King of Norway for two decades, but his quest for power and thirst for battle led to his being exiled for a time to Russia and then returning in triumph. The film envisioned is a Braveheart-style story. DiCaprio, a history buff, has long been interested in headlining a Viking movie; he had once circled a film about Viking warriors that Mel Gibson was to direct. Smith is repped by WME and Anonymous Content.
Appian Way has a big fall with the Ben Affleck-Justin Timberlake-starrer Runner Runner, the Scott Cooper-directed Christian Bale-starrer Out Of The Furnace and the Martin Scorsese-directed The Wolf Of Wall Street, the latter of which stars DiCaprio. Next up is Live By Night, based on the Dennis Lehane bestseller which Affleck adapted to be his directing/starring follow up to the Oscar-winning Argo.