Keanu Reeves is stepping away from the long-awaited adaptation of Devil in the White City. The news was announced via a report from Variety on Friday, confirming that Reeves will not be playing Daniel H. Burnham in the upcoming Hulu series, which will adapt Erik Larson's 2003 novel of the same name. Devil in the White City would have been the first major role on American television for Reeves, who is known for his fan-favorite performances in franchises like John Wick and The Matrix. The creative time behind the series is reportedly already searching for a replacement.
Devil in the White City 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. The role of Holmes is reportedly currently still uncast.
An adaptation of Devil in the White City has been in the works for almost two decades, with Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner acquiring the adaptation rights through their first-look deal with Paramount up until 2004. The film rights were reacquired by Paramount in 2007, and actor Leonardo DiCaprio acquired the rights in 2010, with plans to adapt it as a film, with him starring as Holmes. Martin Scorsese was later brought on to direct in 2015, with Billy Ray lined up to write the script.
But in recent years, the project has been reworked into a series, with Scorsese and DiCaprio executive producing alongside Jennifer Davisson, Stacey Sher, Sam Shaw, and Mark Lafferty. Shaw is adapting the book, showrunning, and executive producing, with Lila Byock also executive producing.
"One thing that came up after I'd really gotten into the book, when I was thinking about how actually to put the pieces of the story together," Larson explained in a 2003 interview with Identity Theory. "One of the things that struck me is—that from a strategic standpoint—my goal is to be read and to transport people back to this time. I don't consider myself a historian. I am not locked in by any need to do a deconstructionist/feminist look at the World's Fair. Nor do I feel required to do the definitive book on the Fair. Which I would not have wanted to do because there were a lot of boring things at the Fair. But one of the along the lines of trying to make this a book that would appeal to the maximum number of readers was that there was a strategic benefit to having this serial killer in the book that I hadn't appreciated before. That is, many people declare, "I don't read non-fiction." And many people say, "I don't read fiction." What I wanted to do was to get that crossover audience, to get people to break out of their molds. Get the people who only read fiction to read some non-fiction for once. And one portal for that was the idea of this serial killer. A serial killer now being a standard vehicle for many mystery stories. And it became my thinking that with a serial killer at the Fair I would be drawing readers who would be lured in by that. But it was my hope that once being lured in, they would be further and more powerfully seduced by the, technically speaking, more classical narrative of Daniel Hudson Burnham and his struggle to build the Fair. And I am finding that is the case. People are telling me that."
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