Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill Look to Rekindle Their Onscreen Fire in ‘American Nightmare’


Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street was one of those movies that really divided people. It was super-long, it was full of super-disgusting things, and it never fully showed its hand in regards to how you were supposed to be feeling about all of the repetitive debauchery it put up on the screen. Some people think that it’s a sharp takedown of the behavior of Wall Street executives, while others think that it’s a piece of exploitation trash, meant to do little other than glorify greed, drug abuse, and philandering. That’s a pretty wide divide to exist between opinions regarding the same movie.

What pretty much everyone can absolutely agree upon in regards to The Wolf of Wall Street, however, is that two of its lead actors, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill, put a powerful mix of chemistry on display as they played a pair of best friends/garbage human beings—with that infamous scene where they both take too many quaaludes and wind up experiencing a drug-induced freakout making an exceptionally strong case for the theory that these guys need to team up more often so that they can keep making weird movie magic together.

And it looks like our wish has been granted. Deadline has news that Fox also sees potential in the DiCaprio and Hill pairing, so they’ve bought the rights to a story that will get them back together on set as soon as possible.

Said story is the story of Richard Jewell, or, more specifically, the story of Richard Jewell as it appeared in the Marie Brenner-penned “Vanity Fair” article about his life, ‘American Nightmare: The Ballad of Richard Jewell.’ For those not aware of who Jewell is, he’s a guy who experienced quite a bit of craziness back in the 90s. Not only did the man have a lot happening on a personal level at the time, as he had recently moved back in with an ailing parent in order to care for her, and he had recently taken a security job as a first step toward trying to become a cop, but he soon found that he also had a lot happening on a global level, as he unwittingly became a lead suspect in one of the most highly-publicized FBI investigations of the decade.

You see, Jewell’s security job saw him working at Olympic events when the games were in Atlanta in ’96, and working said games eventually led him to the terrifying situation of finding a backpack with a bomb in it that was left sitting in a public place. To his credit, Jewell handled the situation with aplomb by instantly reporting the suspicious bag to the proper authorities and evacuating people out of the immediate area where it was found, but his good deed for the day didn’t end up being the end of his story. Sure, he was heralded as being a hero for the required fifteen minutes or so, but seeing as he was the person who first discovered the bomb, it was only natural that he would also be placed on a list of potential bomber suspects—and that’s when the media swooped in.

Back in ’96 and ’97 the 24 hour news cycle wasn’t quite at the frantic, firehose of information pace that it reached after 9/11, but it was ramping up to get there, and Jewell became one of the early victims of that desperate need of cable journalists to fill 24 hours a day with new and increasingly salacious material. Once it was leaked that he was a suspect, Jewell was crucified in the press, not only being widely reported as likely being the bomber, but also becoming the butt of personal jokes involving his lifestyle and physical appearance. Like some sort of proto-Grumpy Cat or Sad Keanu, Jewell had gone viral, and it was an experience that didn’t have such a positive impact on his life—especially considering that he was innocent of any wrong-doing. If you want to hear about what Jewell went through in more detail, Brenner’s “Vanity Fair” piece can still be read here.

To get back to the potential film at hand, Fox is looking to put Hill in the Jewell role, while they’ve got DiCaprio lined up for the part of Jewell’s attorney, L. Lin Wood Jr., who was an in-over-his-head personal injury lawyer at the time, but who was propelled toward being a rather prominent libel, defamation, and First Amendment lawyer after counseling Jewell through his battle with the media and the FBI.

This seems like the perfect follow-up to The Wolf of Wall Street for these two actors, because not only is it going to get them back together so that they can bump their personalities off of each other again, but it also puts them right back into that successful formula of playing real-life people in a real-life story that shines a spotlight on an important subject. Like Scorsese’s film made clear the level of corruption that was going on at the highest levels of Wall Street, Jewell’s story seems like it could be an effective tool with which to damn the news media for the lowered standards and increased sensationalization they’ve employed ever since the launch of CNN made reporting the news such a for-profit venture.

Heck, even Brenner has a lot of experience telling a story like this, because it was an article she wrote called ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ that served as the source material for Michael Mann’s Best Picture Nominee from 1999, The Insider. If this story gets adapted into a screenplay as strong as that one, and is put together by a director anywhere near the level of Mann’s, then whatever they officially end up calling ‘American Nightmare’ will become a project that starts showing up on people’s “most anticipated” lists pretty quickly. Until all of the details of this one come together, we’ll probably have to keep ourselves warm by watching the quaalude scene from The Wolf of Wall Street over and over again though. What a shit show that movie is.

Weaned on the genre films of the 80s. Reared by the independent movement of the 90s. Earned a BA for writing stuff in the 00s. Reviews current releases at

Read More from Nathan Adams
Get Film School Rejects in your email. All the cool kids are doing it:
Previous Article
Next Article
Reject Nation
Leave a comment
Comment Policy: No hate speech allowed. If you must argue, please debate intelligently. Comments containing selected keywords or outbound links will be put into moderation to help prevent spam. Film School Rejects reserves the right to delete comments and ban anyone who doesn't follow the rules. We also reserve the right to modify any curse words in your comments and make you look like an idiot. Thank You!