Warner Bros. has acquired feature rights to Dennis Lehane’s Prohibition-era gangster novel “Live by Night” and set the project with Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way Prods. as a potential starring vehicle for the thesp.
It’s the third Lehane project to land at Warner Bros., which adapted his novels “Mystic River” and “Gone Baby Gone.” Paramount adapted Lehane’s “Shutter Island,” starring DiCaprio and directed by Martin Scorsese.
“I’ve had a great experience with Warners and a great experience with Leo,” Lehane told Variety. “The only thing I take credit for in the films is being involved with some very classy people.”
“Live by Night” will be produced by Rick Yorn and DiCaprio’s Appian Way partner Jennifer Davisson Killoran, with Lehane exec producing. Mike Ireland brought the book, which will be published in October, into Appian Way.
“Live by Night” contains some of the same characters from Lehane’s “The Given Day,” which culminates in the 1919 Boston police strike. “Night” centers on the gangsters who ran rum from Cuba to Tampa to Boston during Prohibition.
Lehane, who finished the manuscript last fall, said his experiences watching James Cagney gangster movies as a child in Boston inspired him to write the novel.
“When people think of Prohibition, they think of whiskey, but I always have wanted to write about rum,” he noted. “Back then, the Ybor City section of Tampa was wide open, kind of like Casablanca. So much rum came through there.”
Warners will also control film rights to “The Given Day,” which had been optioned previously by Sam Raimi.
Lehane’s written 10 novels and was a staff writer on HBO series “The Wire.” He obtained his first exec producer feature credit on “Shutter Island.”
Amy Schiffman at Intellectual Property Group negotiated the deal for “Live by Night” on behalf of Ann Rittenberg of the Ann Rittenberg Agency.