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Exclusive: DiCaprio Developing A Tale of Two Cities

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | December 10, 2009 |

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | December 10, 2009 |

One of the cool things about being privy to the inside information that The Hollywood Cog provides is that we actually know more than what the trades would eventually report. They get names, a logline, and a puffy quote from some exec producer, and they run with it (although, they don’t always even get the logline). But, usually, by the time the trades get the news, the project has already been mostly developed, and filming is often less than a year away, and they don’t get much in the way of a back story.

So, part of the rub here with announcing a project early is that it may never get made, and everyone gets all foamed or lathered up for no reason. Such is the case with A Tale of Two Cities. It’s not been announced anywhere (so far as I know), but Warner Brothers and Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company, Appian Way, are developing a movie version of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. But before you get upset or giddy, as the case may be, you should also know that they’ve been developing the movie since 2002, which suggests that it’s been in development hell long enough to make pretty good friends with Satan.

It’s not as though it’d be particularly easy to adapt Dickens’ mammoth novel — it’s been done before, of course (several times, actually), but it’d be almost impossible to do the novel justice. Terry Gilliam gave it a shot in the ’90s with Mel Gibson and Liam Neeson, but eventually abandoned the project, no doubt recognizing the futility of it.

My guess is that, in the beginning, that’s probably what happened with Appian Way — during the first five years of development, several writers took a stab at adapting it, including — from what we can gather — Beau Willimon and Paul Webb. Then DiCaprio officially came aboard to star in 2007. Big title, big name — it’s gonna get made, right?

Who knows? But here’s why I think it’s got a shot: In addition to DiCaprio, Barry Levinson (Good Morning, Vietnam, Wag the Dog) came aboard to direct just last year. But, Levinson has several projects in development, and he may very well be too old to finish them all, much less find a spot in DiCaprio’s schedule to make it (at last count, Dicaprio had 26 announced projects in development). That’s not exactly encouraging.

But this may be: The project is slow to develop, but it’s not inactive. In fact, just a matter of weeks ago, Warner was negotiating with Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) to rewrite the script, and all indications suggested that he was going to take the gig. Granted, Beaufoy also has a couple of projects in development, but nothing — it would seem — that would keep him from working on this rewrite.

So will it happen? I dunno. Beaufoy may be just another in a long line of writers to taking a pass and failing. But Beaufoy, Levinson, and DiCaprio make a pretty intriguing trilogy, so this is one that I’d actually like to see come to fruition. After all, I think a lot of us were disappointed in the 1958 version we watched in high school in lieu of reading the novel.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

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