Leonardo DiCaprio and his production outfit Appian Way have been sitting on the rights to the novel The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic And Madness At The Fair That Changed America for quite a while, with intents to eventually get it made with DiCaprio himself starring as the main character Dr. H.H. Holmes. Holmes was a serial killer from the late 1800s, a twisted freak who built a murderous funhouse of a hotel that contained a gas chamber, a crematorium, and a dissection table… amongst other things, which led to him capturing and murdering anywhere between thirty to a couple hundred people during the Chicago World’s Fair.
There’s movement on the project now, as DiCaprio and his people have sold the rights to Warner Bros. and are going to team up with the studio to produce. The first step to actually making a movie is to get a script, so to that end Warners has hired Graham Moore to do an adaptation. You might recognize Moore’s name, because he recently made some waves when his script The Imitation Game was named at the top of the 2011 Black List. And in addition to being a hot screenwriter, he’s also a native Chicagoan, which makes him kind of perfect for this project.
When talking to Deadline Goose Island, Moore said that he has been, “obsessed with Devil in the White City for a decade. 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 Midwestern, and in a weird way, this is a dark and twisted tribute to my hometown.”
Seeing as Holmes was a complete psychopath who tortured and murdered a bunch of people, he’s kind of a strange choice for the protagonist of a film. How do you ask an audience to keep watching this guy operate without becoming disgusted and tuning out? Moore talked about his strategy by saying, “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. … 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 think we all know what this means: Graham Moore is a potential murderer. Once this guy goes crazy and starts offing people, don’t say I didn’t warn you.