NEW YORK — Leonardo DiCaprio, who played identical twins in the Randall Wallace-directed “Man in the Iron Mask,” has signed on to go that route again, but in a far more daring manner.
He’ll star in “Johnny Eck,” a film that is being put together by producer Mark Gordon and Pelagius Entertainment principal Joe Fries, based on the story of Robert and Johnny Eckhardt.
The latter of that duo was born without the lower half of his body, and is somewhat famous for playing the half-boy hero of Tod Browning’s 1932 cult film classic “Freaks.” His brother was completely normal. The story focuses on the brothers and their triumph over the exploitation of one of them, with DiCaprio in both roles.
DiCaprio, who last starred in “The Beach” and who is just starting work for director Martin Scorsese in “Gangs of New York,” signed on after he and his AMG manager Rick Yorn heard a pitch meeting with Gordon and Fries. “Johnny Eck” marks the second alliance between Gordon and Fries with a star-attached true story. The pair recently set up “Petey Greene’s Washington,” a film to star Martin Lawrence. DiCaprio’s repped by AMG and his attorney is Steve Warren of Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman & Warren.
CHE FOR RATNER: Marking a decided departure from his recent hits like “Rush Hour,” “Money Talks” and the upcoming Beacon Communications/Universal pic “The Family Man,” director Brett Ratner wants to turn the life of Latin American revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevera into a feature film. Through the discretionary fund he has in his overall deal at New Line, Ratner, who bows the Nicolas Cage-Tea Leoni-Don Cheadle pic Dec. 15th, has optioned screen rights to “Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life,” a 1997 groundbreaking book by journo Jon Lee Anderson, originally published by Grove Press.
Aside from tracking Guevara’s transition from Argentinian doctor to a galvanizing force in Fidel Castro’s successful overthrow of Fulgencio Batista’s regime in Cuba, Anderson had the insight of Guevara’s personal diaries, supplied to him by his widow, and other previously sealed documents from Cuba and Russia to tell his compelling story, right up to when he was captured and executed by Bolivian counterinsurgency rangers. Anderson even located his grave.
Armed with all that, Ratner will try to achieve something many have tried, to make a Guevara pic. Recent projects in development include a biopic developed with director Roger Donaldson by Panzer/Davis. The Anderson book was previously attempted by director Chris Gerolmo with Benicio Del Toro. Yet another project is in the works, the Mick Jagger-produced “Tania,” a thriller which was to have Antonio Banderas play Guevara, whom he portrayed in “Evita.” Ratner and the author were repped by CAA, which worked with Susan Chalfant of The Wylie Agency.
PSUEDONYM SALE: When Fox Searchlight bought Anna Remsen’s spec “#6E” about an apartment used by a group of women for affairs, the studio had no idea it was getting a double occupancy job. The script was sold under a pseudonym and actually was written by a pair of producers. The scribes are Valerie Thomas, who most recently had been working with Jonathan Demme and Ed Saxon’s recently disbanded Clinica Estetico shingle and worked on films like “Ulee’s Gold” and “Subway Stories,” and Stacy Kramer, who most recently partnered with Lisa Tornell in producing “Jawbreaker.” Tornell will produce “#6E,” a comedy about four women friends in various stages of relationships who each decide to take a lover, for monthly one-night stands, in the hopes of reinvigorating the sex lives of their current relationship. Writers & Artists made the deal after Fox Searchlight senior veep Claudia Lewis brought in the script.
GOTTLIEB BACK: A week after starting his new agency Trident Media Group with fellow lit agent Dan Strone, longtime William Morris agent Robert Gottlieb signed former investment banker Kyle Mills to a seven-figure, two-book deal with Putnam. Mills’s previous thrillers, “Free Fall” and “Storm in Heaven,” were bestsellers for HarperCollins. The author was discovered by Gottlieb’s former longtime client, Tom Clancy, who is friendly with Mills’s FBI agent dad, and who directed Mills to Gottlieb, who signed him.