Leonardo DiCaprio

Variety is reporting that DiCaprio has signed on to star in a biopic of Nolan Bushnell, the creator of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese and long considered to be the founding father of the videogame industry. The pitch from writers Brian Hecker and Craig Sherman is currently called simply Atari, although that will probably change by the time production starts. DiCaprio is producing under his production company, Appian Way, and he is attached to star. There’s been no confirmation yet as to if he’ll play Bushnell or a man in a rat suit playing a banjo and selling terribly delicious pizza.

Bushnell was apparently named one of Newsweek magazine’s “50 Men That Changed America” alongside George W. Bush, Osama Bin Laden, and Michael Bay. (I say apparently because although every online reference to Bushnell refers to the Newsweek honor, the actual Newsweek list itself is nowhere to be found.) He co-founded Atari in 1972 and found his first real success with a little game called Pong. Sure it was stolen from the Magnavox Odyssey’s Tennis game, but Bushnell’s pong was bigger.

In a genius bit of cross-market pollination, Bushnell created Pizza Time Theatre, which combined kids’ love for games and Chef Boyardee pizza under one roof. He later added giant animals possessed by the spirits of dead musicians and renamed the chain Chuck E. Cheese. His foray into the cardboard pizza and animatronics business earned him Nations Restaurant News “Innovator of the Year” award.

For all of Bushnell’s accolades and acclaim, the savvy businessman has more than a few detractors. He’s been accused of playing fast and loose with company finances and many employees and co-founders from his over twenty startup companies have been left for dead in his wake. Figuratively speaking of course… although if it were literally true it would make the upcoming movie that much more entertaining. Even without the murder subplots however, Bushnell’s life is a fascinating one and should make for a good and interesting movie.

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