Film takes place on MGM lot in '30s

Michael Mann has delivered to studio execs what he hopes will be his next directing effort, a star vehicle for Leonardo DiCaprio.

Scripted by John Logan, the project is an untitled noir drama that takes place on the old MGM lot in the 1930s. DiCaprio is poised to play the kind of private detective studios once relied on to clean up the scandals created by its stars. He’s hired to investigate whether a starlet murdered her husband.

The script was delivered by CAA to studios late last week, and sources said that a deal was expected to happen quickly. New Line made a bid of around $100 million, said sources, which falls below a projected pricetag of around $120 million.

Sources said the script is strong and the film has a period feel reminiscent of “L.A. Confidential.” Studios were weighing that and DiCaprio’s heat against the large budget, but other bids were expected before a deal is closed.

Aside from a budget, the film has a February start date. It will shoot mostly on soundstages, and it works in classic figures like Judy Garland and Bugsy Siegel. The latter is the centerpiece of a shootout scene that unfolds in the Trocadero nightclub on Sunset Boulevard.

Mann, who’ll produce under his Forward Pass banner, has been quietly developing the script with Logan since September. DiCaprio has also been in the mix for several months. The trio last worked together on “The Aviator.” Mann produced that film, but originally developed it with Logan and DiCaprio with the expectation he would direct.

Not eager to direct another biopic after “The Insider” and “Ali,” Mann handed the script to Martin Scorsese so that the picture could go into production before several rival Hughes films that were being mobilized.

If a deal closes, DiCaprio would finally find himself before Mann’s camera lens, after years of attempts. Aside from “The Aviator,” they tried to team on a James Dean biopic and the fact-based drama “The Inside Man.”

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