As a true supergenius who revolutionized electricity and died as a penniless recluse, the life of Nikola Tesla is so cinematic that I long for the definitive biopic. If I can trust a recent report from Wild Rooster [via Bleeding Cool], that movie is on its way. The report suggests Christian Bale and Nicolas Cage are in talks to play Tesla and Thomas Edison, respectively, in Tesla, Ruler of the World. Director Mike Newell (Prince of Persia) has been approached, and could take the reins after he finishes Great Expectations. The screenplay by Serbian writer Vladimir Rajčić purportedly links “events from Tesla’s life to a modern day story of technological crisis.” Wild Rooster suggests more big names are in talks to play other notable folk like J.P. Morgan, George Westinghouse, and Sara Bernhardt when the film shoots in Chicago.
Most of this corresponds to previous reports that have floated around the internet over the past couple years, wherein Cage has scouted for locations or Rade Serbedgia and Lolita Davidovich are also attached. But until news of Tesla, Ruler of the World comes through a more official pipeline, we will treat this as a very exciting rumor. Hit the jump for background on Tesla.
Here is the Wikipedia version:
Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American inventor, physicist, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, and futurist. He was an important contributor to the use of commercial electricity, and is best known for developing the modern alternating current (AC) electrical supply system. His many revolutionary developments in the field of electromagnetism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were based on the theories of electromagnetic technology discovered by Michael Faraday. Tesla’s patents and theoretical work also formed the basis of wireless communication and the radio.
Born to Serbian parents in the village of Smiljan (now part of Gospić, present day Croatia), Tesla was a subject of the Austrian Empire by birth and later became an American citizen. Because of his 1894 demonstration of short range wireless communication through radio and his eventual victory in the “War of Currents”, he was widely respected as one of the greatest electrical engineers who worked in America. He pioneered modern electrical engineering and many of his discoveries were of groundbreaking importance. In the United States during this time, Tesla’s fame rivaled that of any other inventor or scientist in history or popular culture. Tesla demonstrated wireless energy transfer to power electronic devices in 1891, and aspired to intercontinental wireless transmission of industrial power in his unfinished Wardenclyffe Tower project.
Towards the end of his life in the 1930s, Tesla became reclusive, living alone in a New York City hotel room and only appearing occasionally to make unusual statements to the press. Because of his pronouncements and the nature of his work over the years Tesla gained a reputation in popular culture as the archetypal “mad scientist”. He died penniless and in debt in January, 1943.
See what I mean? And this barely touched on the fascinating War of Currents. As great as David Bowie was as Tesla in The Prestige, it was not enough. We need the full Tesla experience, and I am now convinced we need Cage playing Edison as a mustache-twirling villain.
If this doesn’t come together, the Cage-free independent production Fragments from Olympus may have to suffice to tell the story of Tesla on film for now.