Sometimes, moreso now than ever before, Hollywood often finds itself releasing movies that shared the same basic plot/concept. One example was the near-simultaneous release of The Illusionist and The Prestige in 2006. But lately, it seems like the idea is releasing multiple projects based off the same true story. For example, a limited series titled The Dropout is currently being worked on, centering around the disgraced entrepreneur Elizabeth Theranos and will star Amanda Seyfried in the principal role. At the same time, Adam McKay has a long-gestating film based on Theranos' story titled Bad Blood (though it's been in development hell for five years). And now, another story is being added to the list, that of the horrendous true story of the mass murder-suicide of over 900 people in the Jonestown cult on November 18th, 1978. While it was announced late-last year that Leonardo DiCaprio will play the infamous cult leader Jim Jones in an upcoming biopic, it's now been confirmed that another movie is also in the making with that project's leads now officially announced today.
Titled White Night, the series will star Joseph Gordon-Levitt will as Jones, the Christian socialist preacher, self-proclaimed God and cult leader while Chloë Grace Moretz is set to co-star as Deborah Layton, a woman who rose through the ranks of the cult and tried to expose Jones before it was too late. The series will actually be based off Layton’s memoir Seductive Poison, and will chronicle the events leading up to the tragedy, considered one of the largest mass murder-suicides on record. The massacre occurred at the Jonestown settlement that Jones established in Guyana in 1974, an extension of his San Francisco-based cult.
William Wheeler wrote the script and will see Anne Sewitsky (A Very British Scandal) at the helm. The film seems determined to beat DiCaprio's film to the punch with filming set to begin in the Spring. DiCaprio is currently in the midst of a nine month production on Martin Scorsese's newest film Killers of the Flower Moon. The film is being financed by FilmNation Entertainment, produced by FilmNation and Archer Gray. FilmNation is launching worldwide sales on the film at the European Film Market. Archer Gray’s CEO, Amy Nauiokas, released the following statement today with the film's announcement:
“Debbie Layton’s Seductive Poison was the first book Anne Carey and I optioned at Archer Gray, and it formed the foundation of our mission to help give voice to the stories it was time to hear. Debbie’s incredible journey with the People’s Temple deserves an audience across generations. It should serve as warning about the power a certain type of charismatic leader can have and the very real lessons to be learned from our history,”
FilmNation’s president of production Ashley Fox added her own thoughts:
“When we first read Bill Wheeler’s adaptation, it was seeing this infamous story from Deborah’s point of view that unlocked it psychologically and dramatically. Entering Jim Jones’ magnetic orbit through the eyes of an idealistic, passionate young woman reminded us that anyone can fall victim to extremism, given the right circumstances. Anne’s urgent, thrilling vision for the film will make White Night a propulsive, immersive experience for this moment, while being the definitive portrayal of this timeless story,”
While obviously many are anticipating DiCaprio's take on Jones, given his penchant for often playing eccentric characters who entice all around them, ranging from Howard Hughes to Jordan Belfort, it will interesting to see what Gordon-Levitt does in the role. Especially when noting that Gordon-Levitt is often known for playing more straight-laced heroes with charm. Stay tuned!