Warner Bros. has just picked up the next great Leonardo-DiCaprio-will-so-totally-kill-you thriller, an adaptation of Don Winslow’s novel Satori. The studio isn’t wasting much time, setting DiCaprio to star as genius assassin Nicholai Hel in the film, which will be adapted by both screenwriter Shane Salerno and Winslow himself. The two recently paired up to write the script with Oliver Stone for the director’s upcoming adaptation of another Winslow novel, Savages.
The character of Nicholai Hel was first created by author Trevanian in 1979’s Shibumi, with Winslow crafting his own work as a prequel to Hel’s adventures in Shibumi, with Satori expanding on both the man and his sprawling backstory by way of exploring his earlier years. Hel is a renaissance man to the most terrifying degree – born of a Russian mother and a German father, he was brought up by a Japanese martial expert and former general who taught him everything he knows (from fighting skills to the strategic pursuit of Go, a “complex, chess-like Japanese game”). Further research on Hel reveals another fun tidbit, he’s apparently “the world’s most artful lover.” So…that’s cool for Leo.
Satori follows Hel after the death of his mentor – who Hel actually kills “as an act of devotion,” mainly because the former general would have been tried as a war criminal. Of course, Hel’s good deed does not go unpunished, and he gets tossed into a prison, where he’s held in solitary confinement for three years. To add insult to injury, he’s tortured until he gets sprung by the CIA, who need him to assassinate a Soviet leader. The rest of the plot is filled with romance, intrigue, and lots of double-crossing by just about everyone. If that sounds as if the film has got it all, it’s because it does – Hel is the perfect kind of character for a large-scale cinematic take, and DiCaprio fits the bill.
Warner Bros. is already hoping to make a franchise out of the character and his exploits, which seems like a bit of a no-brainer for everyone involved. [Deadline Chiba City]