Universal Pictures is putting together its own entry into the Leonardo DiCaprio sweepstakes, hiring “The Mighty” scribe Charles Leavitt to adapt “Bombshell: The Secret Story of America’s Unknown Atomic Spy Conspiracy,” an espionage thriller being developed as a starring vehicle for the “Titanic” phenom.
While much attention has been given to DiCaprio’s tenuous connection to Lions Gate Films’ “American Psycho,” the link between the thesp and “Bombshell” seems to be on firmer ground: The actor’s father, George DiCaprio, will produce along with Mary Salter and Industry Entertainment’s Nick Wechlser, Julia Chasman and Rick Yorn.
Moreover, “Bombshell” was optioned last fall with DiCaprio in mind by Industry Ent. (formerly named Addis-Wechsler), the management/ production firm that reps the actor.
Though it was set up at Universal soon after, the producers and studio underwent a painstaking process to find a writer to whom they could entrust the project.
Leavitt emerged after compiling credits that included Miramax’s upcoming Sharon Stone-starrer “The Mighty,” which Leavitt adapted from Rodman Philbrick’s novel “Freak the Mighty.”
“Bombshell” tells the story of Theodore Hall, a physics prodigy who was recruited for the Manhattan Project while still a teenager, albeit a recent Harvard grad. Although the youngest participant in the development of the atomic bomb, Hall passed top secret data to the Soviet Union — actions that went undiscovered until recently, but that historians now claim may have started the Cold War.
Unlike Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed for similar treasonous activities, Hall and his cohort Saville Sax escaped detection until 1995, when their names were uncovered in Soviet intelligence data released by the National Security Agency.
The authors of “Bombshell,” then Moscow-based newspaper correspondents Joseph Albright and Marcia Kunstel, then sniffed out their identities and began the research into their real-life spy story.
“Bombshell,” which was published last fall by Times Books, adds another film from which DiCaprio can cherry-pick.
Among the other projects to which he has been linked are “American Psycho,” Spike Lee’s Son of Sam chiller; and Lasse Halstrom’s “Cider House Rules” for Miramax.
For Universal, Leavitt — whose first-produced original was the Michael Cimino-helmed “Sunchaser” — also is penning “K-Pax,” an adaptation of Gene Brewer’s novel set to star Will Smith. He also penned the Robin Williams’ vehicle “Damien of Molokai.”
Leavitt’s deal was brokered by Lee Cohen of the William Morris Agency.