Over a year ago, we reported that Leonardo DiCaprio would be producing and starring in an adaptation of the 2003 non-fiction book by Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America. With DiCaprio slated to portray serial killer Dr. HH Holmes, Warner Bros has tapped Graham Moore to write up the script. Moore wrote the spec script The Imitation Game, which was not only the top of the 2011 Black List of unproduced screenplays, but also netted a 7-figure deal when it was acquired by Warner Bros.
Devil in the White City tells the story of Holmes, a Victorian-era doctor who lured anywhere from 27 to 200 people to their deaths during the World’s Fair of 1893 in Chicago. Having built the World’s Fair Hotel, which became known as the “murder castle,” Holmes included a gas chamber, crematorium and a dissecting table among the amenities available to his guests. The good doctor then murdered his victims and dismantled their bodies to sell for scientific study. Hit the jump for lots more.
Deadline initially reported on Moore’s attachment to the project. Although the scribe will be writing for DiCaprio’s Devil in the White City, a connection between the two has been established on a previous project. DiCaprio was previously mentioned as possibly starring as Alan Turing in Moore’s The Imitation Game. Turing was a British World War II-era cryptographer who broke Germany’s “Enigma” code. Rather than being hailed the hero, Turing was eventually criminally prosecuted due to his homosexuality; he later poisoned himself.
Moore has ties to the bloody history of Chicago’s Dr. Holmes:
“My high school was 50 yard away from where the Chicago World’s Fair was held, and I played soccer on a field near where Holmes murdered about 200 people. It was a truly horrible crime, but it’s a very Chicago story. Though I moved to LA, I think of myself as fundamentally Mid-Western, and in a weird way, this is a dark and twisted tribute to my hometown.”
Moore also compared the troubled men of Turing and Holmes and explained what drew him to both projects:
“Turing was a great genius and in a twisted evil way, so was Holmes. Turing was this British mathematician who on the outside wasn’t likeable at all, who was difficult and a bit rude, but who was a great human being inside. Holmes was a most likable guy who inwardly was a tremendous monster. I’m drawn to stories where the role of villain and hero get murky and I thought it would be different to tell the Holmes story from his perspective, and put a little humanity into him. That’s not easy because it’s like trying to care for a caricature and you read the book and every time he does something horrible, you read 10 pages further and he’s done something even worse. In my head, the most unsettling part of Holmes isn’t what he did, but in what ways we notice bits of him that exist inside us and don’t make us feel very good. I credit Warner Bros with taking a risk on me with both of these projects. It has been a surreal six months for me.”