EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros has acquired Rasputin, a pitch by American Sniper scribe Jason Hall that will be developed for Leonardo DiCaprio to play the Russian mystic who became an advisor to the Russian Imperial family the Romanovs. Embraced by Tsar Nicholas II and Alexandra as a healer for their only son, Tsarevich Alexei, who secretly suffered from hemophilia, Rasputin’s influence with the family in all matters grew to the point that rivals tried several times to kill him, finally succeeding in 1916. The film will be produced by Langley Park’s Kevin McCormick, by DiCaprio’s Appian Way partner Jennifer Davisson Killoran and Peter Morgan, who’s a producer on the Hall-scripted adaptation of American Sniper, which Steven Spielberg will direct with Bradley Cooper playing Navy SEAL elite sniper Chris Kyle.

This will become the blind script commitment I wrote that Hall had made at Warner Bros, this coming after that studio and DreamWorks teaming up on American Sniper. The screenwriter is also in early talks to adapt as a possible Spielberg project the David Finkel book Thank You For Your Service, about the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder syndrome that is becoming a major issue for vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

There have been numerous movies made about Rasputin and the controversial role he played in the Russian court, but there were new elements here unearthed by Hall that sparked DiCaprio’s interest and gave psychological depth to the so called “mad monk.” To his enemies, he was a charlatan who prolifically bedded women, possibly including the Tsar’s wife. DiCaprio liked the complicated elements of a child who lost the better part of himself when his brother died, and was capable of kindness but also a ruthlessness. Rasputin, who earlier had survived being stabbed, was shot, strangled, shot again, all in one night, and finally drowned when thrown into the icy Neva River.

McCormick brought the project to Appian Way and the deal was made yesterday while he was in London, where the Sam Mendes-directed stage play Charlie And The Chocolate Factory is in previews. This becomes another strong project for Appian Way, which will see Ben Affleck start production in Live By Night, the adaptation of the Dennis Lehane novel that Affleck scripted, will star in and direct for Warner Bros. Appian Way has three major films releasing this year, with the Martin Scorsese-directed The Wolf Of Wall Street starring DiCaprio, the Brad Furman-directed Runner, Runner with Affleck, Justin Timberlake, Gemma Arterton and Anthony Mackie; and Out Of The Furnace, the Scott Cooper-directed revenge tale for Relativity with Christian Bale, Zoe Saldana, Woody Harrelson and Casey Affleck.

Hall is repped by CAA and Management 360.