EXCLUSIVE: Director Michael Almereyda is teaming with producer Uri Singer on Tesla, a biopic about legendary inventor Nikola Tesla, whose real-life inventions and exaggerated public image have inspired future scientists as well as countless works of fiction, from comics to novels and films including The Prestige.
Tesla will be the third collaboration between Almereyda and Singer. The two worked together on Experimenter, starring Peter Sarsgaard and Winona Ryder, and the recently completed Marjorie Prime, which stars Geena Davis, Tim Robbins and Jon Hamm and is based on the Pulitzer-finalist play. Long a passion project by Almereyda, the Tesla script was the first he ever wrote. The pic is casting, and pre-production is set to start in April.
Born in Austria-Hungary in what is now Croatia to a Serbian family in 1856, Tesla immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1880s and began working for Thomas Edison. What began as a warm professional relationship would turn into a fierce, hostile rivalry when Tesla quit Edison after feeling he had been unfairly compensated for designing improvements to the company’s inefficient motor and generators designs. Their rivalry would form the basis for the so-called “War of Currents” of the 1880s and ’90s, as Edison was a proponent of direct current, while Tesla advocated for alternating current transmission of electricity.
Tesla conceived of numerous innovations that eventually would be realized by other inventors including wireless communications, remote-control devices and even X-ray imaging. He also famously attempted to build what he called a “directed energy weapon,” popularly referred to as a death ray, though he was never able to make such a device work. He died poor and in relative obscurity in 1944 and since has become a huge influence on subsequent scientists as well as the popular culture embodiment of the “mad scientist” archetype.
Tesla will focus on the inventor’s life in America, telling of his struggles working for Edison as well as his encounters with other historical giants of the era such as George Westinghouse and J.P. Morgan. Following his often strange ideas and uncompromising vision — often to the point of severe financial setbacks — the story will attempt an authentic and honest look into Tesla’s life as an outsider and the legacy he left behind.
Singer’s BB Film Productions previously produced Open Road, starring Andy Garcia and Juliette Lewis, and Like Sunday, Like Rain, starring Debra Messing, Billie Joe Armstrong and Leighton Meester.