Did someone say… Keanu Reeves? I’m in! No questions asked.
Well, okay, I suppose I should dig into the greater details behind this major casting announcement surrounding Hulu’s latest in-the-works limited series. Especially since Keanu Reeves isn’t the only major Hollywood name attached to this long-awaited adaptation. In fact, this project all began with the one and only Leonardo DiCaprio!
On that namedropping cliffhanger, let’s discuss the prolonged lead-up to this TV adaptation, Keanu’s role, as well as Erik Larson’s novelistic nonfiction book that caught Leo’s eye over a decade ago.
DiCaprio and Scorsese
All the way back in 2010, Leonardo DiCaprio picked up the rights to Erik Larson’s book. The original plan? A blockbuster feature film with Martin Scorsese directing and himself in the lead. This would not be a first-time collaboration for these two Hollywood staples. Over the years, the pair built a significant film history together – including The Departed, The Aviator, Shutter Island, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Gangs of New York.
Throughout the 2010s, Leo was consistently rumored to be attached to the role of H.H. Holmes, deemed to be America’s first serial killer. Why the delay? It’s not entirely clear. Eventually, a shift in the project direction occurred, moving out of feature film territory at Paramount Pictures to Hulu for a limited series in 2019. Both DiCaprio and Scorsese are still attached to the adaptation endeavor in this new format as executive producers.
After a slew of bidding wars and dealmaking over film rights and casting, the adaptation is set to move into production next year, with a tentative 2024 release date. As of now, DiCaprio is no longer in the talks for the onscreen role of H.H. Holmes; that lead is yet to be cast. This week’s major announcement of Keanu Reeves (who rarely takes a TV role) adds another layer of prestige to this long-winding project. To clarify, Reeves’ role is not the serial killer H.H.Holmes, but Daniel H. Burnham – a Chicago architect whose POV makes up one half of the novel’s dual narrative.
Larson’s Novelistic Nonfiction
Erik Larson’s 2003 bestseller takes a riveting true story of 1890s Chicago and tells it in novelistic prose. Split into four parts and interweaving two character narratives, the National Book Award finalist dives into the “murder, magic, and madness at the fair that changed America.” Said fair was the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, spearheaded by Daniel H. Burnham, a prominent architect and urban planner.
Burnham’s viewpoint couples a more sinister, adjacent narrative – that of con artist and serial killer, H.H. Holmes. Often credited as the first serial killer despite only being officially convicted of one murder, Holmes’s role as a killer in the “white city” runs parallel to Burnham’s and the Chicago World’s Fair. The haunting lore surrounding Holmes involves his rumored “murder castle” – the horrors of which inspired the likes of American Horror Story: Hotel (2015).
Deftly weaving together a history that reads as smooth as thriller fiction, Larson’s novel is great for true-crime lovers and historical fiction fans. It’s also, evidently, a long-sought source for TV drama, providing an insightful but dark glimpse into the Gilded Age.
Hulu On The Rise?
If you told me that Scorsese, DiCaprio, and Reeves were teaming up on a new feature, let’s just say my first guess for the platform would not be Hulu. However, maybe this is proof that moving forward, it should very well be considered in the upper echelon of streaming options.
No doubt, Hulu has produced some major successes in recent years, even amidst the constantly expanding competition of streaming platforms. For instance, their gripping adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, recent breakout The Bear, and the Stephen King-inspired Castle Rock. The latter’s key writer, Sam Shaw, is taking on a showrunner role with director Todd Field for this new all-star Hulu endeavor.
Lucidly, the rise of Hulu’s TV production is not a random or inexplicable development. Per Parrot Analytics, the “demand for Hulu’s original programming has doubled in the last three years.” The supporting data largely concludes that Hulu is growing in the right direction, and their original series efforts have indeed stirred a “new value perception” around the platform.
On that uplifting note, I very much look forward to admiring Keanu Reeves in this rare TV role. Though Leo is set (as of now) to remain behind the scenes for this series, I’ll hold out a sliver of hope that perhaps we’ll be able to see him and Reeves on-screen together, sporting top hats and glorious, Gilded Age mustaches!
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