Back in September 2017, Deadline announced that Leonardo DiCaprio would play President Theodore Roosevelt in a biopic that Martin Scorsese would direct for Paramount. DiCaprio’s old buddy Scott Bloom, who co-starred with the actor in Don’s Plum, had been tapped to write the script, and the project hasn’t made headlines since. Until now.
In a delicious profile of embattled filmmaker Josh Trank, Polygon’s gifted feature writer Matt Patches drops a fascinating nugget about the Fantastic Four director — Trank was hired to rewrite the script for Roosevelt. You know the phrase down-and-out? Well at the time, Trank was down, but he was never out, so we have a theory as to how this partnership might have happened. See, Trank’s Al Capone biopic had already been announced at that point, and Scorsese seems like a guy who has long been fascinated with gangsters and organized crime, so while I have no inside knowledge of this, I wonder if Scorsese got a hold of Trank’s script for Fonzo (as Capone was then titled), liked what he saw, and signed off on Trank coming aboard to rewrite his presidential biopic.
No matter how it went down, I was fascinated to learn that Trank teamed with two titans of cinema on this high-profile development project. DiCaprio and Scorsese are poised to work together again on Killers of the Flower Moon — and potentially Devil in the White City, too — so any Roosevelt movie would be years away, but I hope this one comes together soon. After all, Scorsese will be 78 years old later this year, though the master has always had his finger on the pulse when it comes to young filmmaking talent.
When you take Scorsese’s recent track record into account, his turning to Trank makes a lot of sense. This is the guy who executive produced the Safdie brothers‘ gambling drama Uncut Gems and Ben Wheatley‘s crime comedy Free Fire, not to mention a young Kenneth Lonergan‘s directorial debut You Can Count On Me. Regardless of how you feel about those individual films — and I don’t mind saying that I couldn’t stand Free Fire — it’s clear that Scorsese appreciates writers who have a voice and aren’t afraid to use it.
As for this Teddy Roosevelt movie, DiCaprio is producing through his Appian Way banner along with Jennifer Davisson, while Scorsese and Emma Tillinger Koskoff will produce for Sikelia. Chuck Pacheco (Alpha Dog) will also serve as a producer on the project, which Paramount acquired as a pitch.
Roosevelt had a wide-ranging career as an author and explorer before he was elected to serve as the governor of New York, and later, as America’s 26th President. Roosevelt was known for his conservation efforts to preserve the country’s national parks — something that DiCaprio surely respects, given his own history as an activist for the environment.
Trank’s career obviously hit a stumbling block after some bad press hit around the time of Fantastic Four, and he clearly didn’t do himself any favors with studios on social media, but I’ve always appreciated his fire and his candor, both of which are on full display in the Polygon piece, which Patches spent years writing. I may not have liked Fantastic Four but I was impressed with its casting, and know that the final product can’t be blamed on Trank alone, given Fox’s reputation for meddling with comic book movies back then. I remain a huge fan of Chronicle, I’m excited to see Capone, and I’m eager to hear what Trank does next.
One possible project that Polygon mentioned is a limited series called Blown that concerns the early days of the CIA after World War II, and is intended to star Hardy. That sounds awesome, so here’s hoping Hollywood gives Trank a second chance. He may never get another Star Wars-level project, but that’s fine by me, and I suspect, fine by him as well. To read more about Trank’s decision to leave Star Wars, click here.