“Mission: Impossible” star and stuntman extraordinaire Tom Cruise was first attached to “Devil in the White City,” having bought the rights to the book a couple of months after it was published in 2003. At the same time — per Variety (via EW) — Leonardo DiCaprio was trying to develop a movie on H.H. Holmes, a serial killer who preyed on women during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, by relying on information in the public domain.
Holmes is one of two central characters in Erik Larson’s book, “The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America,” which as the official logline goes, “tells the true story of Daniel H. Burnham, a demanding but visionary architect who races to make his mark on history with the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and Dr. H. H. Holmes, America’s first modern serial killer and the man behind the notorious ‘Murder Castle’ built in the Fair’s shadow.”
But Cruise’s book option lapsed in 2004 and Paramount Pictures acquired film rights in 2007. Then in 2010, DiCaprio’s Appian Way Productions bought the rights and put himself up to play Holmes, before hiring Graham Moore (“The Imitation Game”) to script the adaptation in 2011. “Devil in the White City” returned to Paramount in 2015, with DiCaprio bringing on Martin Scorsese to direct and Billy Ray (“Captain Phillips”) set as the new writer. A movie script was still being worked on as of late 2016, per Scorsese, but it fell silent soon afterward.
Both DiCaprio (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “Don’t Look Up”) and Scorsese (“The Irishman”) moved on to other projects, including their upcoming collaboration for Apple TV+, “Killers of the Flower Moon.”