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DiCaprio options novel ‘Dreamland’ for Birken

Thesp pays undisclosed sum out of pocket

Making one of his first material purchases, actor Leonardo DiCaprio has optioned Kevin Baker’s recently published debut novel, “Dreamland,” for an undisclosed sum.

Though DiCaprio is repped by management-production banner Artists Management Group, the “Titanic” star optioned Baker’s debut novel out of his own pocket and will produce the pic under his Birken Prods. banner.

“Dreamland’s” storyline and social commentary have brought comparisons to E.L. Doctorow’s “Ragtime.” It takes place in turn-of-the-century New York and follows the struggles of a large cast of characters, mainly Jewish, Irish and Italian immigrants, as they eke out existences in the teeming Lower East Side ghettoes.

“Dreamland,” which was published last month by HarperCollins, is Baker’s first novel. He previously served as chief historical researcher for Harold Evans’ book “The American Century.”

While DiCaprio was drawn to Baker’s historical drama, the project will have to wait until after he returns from filming his latest project, “The Beach,” for Fox, before attaching a writer and director.

Ron Bernstein of the Gersh Agency brokered the deal on behalf of Baker’s Gotham lit agent, Henry Dunow.