Paramount, led by CEO Brad Grey, has sealed a three-year first-look production deal with Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way. This comes after DiCaprio won Best Actor for The Revenant, and at a time when Appian Way is teamed with Paramount on what could be DiCaprio’s next major project. That is The Devil In The White City, an adaptation of the Erik Larson book that’s got a script by Billy Ray and will reteam DiCaprio with Martin Scorsese. Appian and Paramount are separately percolating an adaptation of the Kayla Olson novel Sandcastle Empire, about an apocalyptic future with a society on the brink of collapse from climate change; a yet-untitled film based on a book proposal by New York Times journalist Jack Ewing about the recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal; and a limited television series based on A. Scott Berg’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Charles Lindbergh. DiCaprio’s Appian Way banner had long been ensconced at Warner Bros, where he still has many projects including Akira and a film about Richard Jewell, the security guard whose life unraveled when his heroic efforts to clear a park during a bombing led to a press witch hunt that he had planted the device. Jonah Hill is attached to play Jewell and DiCaprio could play his lawyer.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Brad and the team at Paramount Pictures on numerous projects throughout my career. I cannot think of a better home for Appian Way as we continue our growth,” DiCaprio said in the announcement today.
This gives the studio a prolific supplier of product at a time when parent company Viacom has said it will sell some kind of stake in the studio, which has taken some criticism for not generating enough product. DiCaprio and Grey worked together in the past on the Scorsese-directed The Wolf of Wall Street and Shutter Island, and that doesn’t count Best Picture winner The Departed, which Grey developed before he left to take the reins of Paramount.
Paramount stepped up when Devil in the White City shook loose from Warner Bros. DiCaprio has long been interested in that story, about a serial killer who operates during the Chicago World Fair at the turn of the century as technology was in full bloom. Appian Way was also producer on The Revenant. Since getting his first real hands on experience on The Aviator, DiCaprio has gravitated more and more towards becoming a hands on filmmaker. His company is run by Jennifer Davisson and they are currently in production on Live By Night, an adaptation of the Dennis Lehane novel directed by Ben Affleck, who also stars. Next up is Robin Hood Origins.
“Leo is one of the great talents of our time,” said Brad Grey. “He is a masterful actor, storyteller and producer, with impeccable taste and skill that has shaped his extraordinary career. Our first project together was The Departed, before I came to Paramount. Since then, working with the legendary Martin Scorsese, we have partnered on two wonderful pictures, Shutter Island and The Wolf of Wall Street. We are both proud and excited to grow our relationships with him, Rick Yorn, Jennifer Davisson and the entire team at Appian Way.”
Said Yorn: “This deal begins the next phase of a great partnership between Appian Way and Paramount Pictures – one truly built on years of successful collaborations, immense respect and deep relationships. Together, our teams have worked on incredible, award-winning films which show the strength of what we can achieve working together. Today, we have a number of exciting projects already under production, and look forward to what lies ahead for both companies as a result of this new partnership.”
“We have developed great admiration for Brad and his incredibly talented team at Paramount Pictures over many years of working together,” Davisson said. “Their commitment to making great movies across all genres is unsurpassed, and I look forward to working alongside them as true partners on many exciting, landmark projects in the future.”