EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Pictures has acquired the Peter Guralnick book Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘N’ Roll. The film will be developed by Appian Way’s Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson for DiCaprio to play the title character, the pioneering music producer who from the tiny Memphis-based Sun Studio helped make stars of artists as diverse as Elvis Presley, Ike Turner, Howlin’ Wolf, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins, a force for integration in the 1950s who changed music forever.

ELVIS BLACK MOORE PHILLIPS
Associated Press

DiCaprio and Davisson will be among an array of producers that will include Mick Jagger, Victoria Pearman, Steve Bing, Ian Montone, Rick Yorn and Guralnick, whose book was published by Little Brown in 2015 and who previously authored the definitive Presley books Last Train To Memphis and Careless Love.

Jagger most recently was executive producer of HBO’s Vinyl, the high-profile, big-budget series that was canceled after one season. The iconic rocker was invaluable in forming that series though and is looked to be a similar asset to the story of Phillips’ iconic Sun Studio.

Sun Studio
Associated Press

They will move quickly to set a writer and filmmaker, and this becomes just the latest high-profile project bought by Paramount for Appian Way since the production company signed a first-look with the studio. It’s the second big book this week, after Paramount acquired the Beth Macy book Truevine: Two Brothers, A Kidnapping, And A Mother’s Quest; A True Story Of The Jim Crow South, also as a potential star vehicle for DiCaprio, who hasn’t chosen a next project after winning Best Actor for The Revenant.

Appian Way has always been bookish, and has another book-to-film adaptation that could be on DiCaprio’s dance card shortly: a Martin Scorsese-directed adaptation of the Erik Larson book The Devil In The White City: Murder, Magic And Madness At The Fair That Changed America, which Billy Ray has scripted about the true story of a serial killer who was the 19th century equivalent of Hannibal Lecter. Dr. HH Holmes constructed a slaughterhouse called The World’s Fair Hotel and killed 27 to 200 people while the city of Chicago was enthralled with hosting the World’s Fair of 1893.

The first book acquired for Appian under the Paramount deal was The Corporation: An Epic Story Of The Cuban American Underworld which has Benicio Del Toro attached to star. 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-winning biography of Charles Lindbergh. It also recently acquired rights to the 1990s comic series Captain Planet.