In the late nineties, when there was talk about a Rasputin film all over Hollywood, my pick for an actor who could play the role wouldn’t have been Leonardo Dicaprio, but in his defense, he was in his mid twenties then. Nothing against Leo, cause I think he can pull off mysterious, but what about Russian? I will get to the heart of the matter, but I need to get this off my chest. It’s been years that Hollywood’s been toying around with a Rasputin film. In the past, actors like Daniel Day Lewis and Gary Oldman were originally considered for roles. Let me say that again Gary Oldman and Daniel Day Lewis, this is what we in the smelting business like to call “striking while the iron is hot”, but nothing became of it. Fast forward several years and this new hot shot screenwriter Jason Hall (American Sniper, a new film directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Bradley Cooper) has been given an unprecedented opportunity by Warner Brothers Pictures to create a script from scratch and what does he do? He creates a Rasputin script and pins Leonardo Dicaprio to star. Sure from a business stand point it is a very smart move, the film will be under the Dicaprio umbrella seeing as how it’s being produced by Leo’s company Appian Way. But what’s really the reason? I’m not talking conspiracy, I’m talking “why Leo?”
According to Deadline
The film will be produced by Langley Park’s Kevin McCormick, by DiCaprio’s Appian Way partner Jennifer Davisson Killoran and Peter Morgan, who’s a producer on the Hall-scripted adaptation of American Sniper, which Steven Spielberg will direct with Bradley Cooper playing Navy SEAL elite sniper Chris Kyle. McCormick brought the project to Appian Way and the deal was made yesterday while he was in London, where the Sam Mendes-directed stage play Charlie And The Chocolate Factory is in previews. This becomes another strong project for Appian Way, which will see Ben Affleck start production in Live By Night, the adaptation of the Dennis Lehane novel that Affleck scripted, will star in and direct for Warner Bros. Appian Way has three major films releasing this year, with the Martin Scorsese-directed The Wolf Of Wall Street starring DiCaprio, the Brad Furman-directed Runner, Runner with Affleck, Justin Timberlake, Gemma Arterton and Anthony Mackie; and Out Of The Furnace, the Scott Cooper-directed revenge tale for Relativity with Christian Bale, Zoe Saldana, Woody Harrelson and Casey Affleck.
This press release is like playing 8 degrees of Kevin Bacon. Everyone is connected. This synergy is fine and all and everybody knows everybody and wadda wadda wadda, but is Leo really perfect for one of the most prolific characters of the turn of the century? People swoon over Dicaprio’s role in The Aviator, which I thought was just okay. Did I love him in Django Unchained? Yes, in fact I thought that it was one of the most powerful roles I’d ever seen Leo play, but Rasputin? A man who some regarded as the devil himself for his ability to wield mystical powers and charm the shit out of the Russian royal family the Romanov’s and let’s not get into the man’s mysterious death or death’s as the case may be.
I realize this movie deal is pretty iron clad, but I’d like to submit my suggestions for the lead, presented in no particular order, but before I do here’s a brief history lesson on Rasputin.
There have been numerous movies made about Rasputin and the controversial role he played in the Russian court, but there were new elements here unearthed by Hall that sparked DiCaprio’s interest and gave psychological depth to the so called “mad monk.” To his enemies, he was a charlatan who prolifically bedded women, possibly including the Tsar’s wife. DiCaprio liked the complicated elements of a child who lost the better part of himself when his brother died, and was capable of kindness but also a ruthlessness. Rasputin, who earlier had survived being stabbed, was shot, strangled, shot again, all in one night, and finally drowned when thrown into the icy Neva River.
Got it? Now here are my picks for the role.
Mads Mikkelsen. His credits include the surreal viking story Vahalla Rising, the NBC series Hannibal and Casino Royal. His darkness and versatility is a given, plus he has that level of “well traveled” that would lend itself well to the dreary Russian backdrop of the early 1900’s.
Next Daniel Day-Lewis…do I really need to get into why he’s one of my obvious choices?
And lastly…Christoph Waltz. His work in films like Inglorious Bastards and Water for Elephants showed off his range as an actor. But what’s really thrilling about handing someone like Christophe a role like this is seeing where he would take it.
I’m under no illusions and I realize that Leo will be playing this role, but I think that there are a few others I would’ve pegged as shoe-ins before him. I mean seriously, how can you look at the one’s I suggested and think that Leonardo Dicaprio should play this role? I couldn’t. I get that Leonardo is pushing 40 nowaday’s and should look as seasoned as some of the others I posted, but he doesn’t. He’s still too baby-faced and I don’t trust him with a Russian accent, even though I know they’ll get lazy with the production and go all sudo-British. This is a worldly and epically Gothic romantic story, Leo is non of these things, in my opinion. One last thing, although I think he may be too old now to play the role, Liam Neeson would have ultimately been my first pick..hands down!