In what is a most unusual pairing, Leonardo DiCaprio is teaming up with Michael Bay to tell a true story centering on the Rwandan national biking team.
Bay and DiCaprio are in talks to set up the untitled project at Paramount, with the duo on board to produce via their respective shingles, Appian Way and Bay Films.
DiCaprio is not attached to star and Bay is not directing, but there is a helmer coming with the package: Orlando von Einsiedel. Von Einsiedel directed Virunga, the 2014 Oscar-nominated documentary about the fight to save gorillas in the Congo that DiCaprio championed as one of its executive producers.
The new Rwandan project, which is still in early development and does not have a script, centers on Jacques “Jock” Boyer, the first American cyclist to race in the Tour de France.
Boyer was an outlier in biking scene back then: In a rowdy crowd of alpha males, Boyer was a Bible-reading Seventh-Day Adventist who ate only nuts and berries. He won more than 40 professional races by the time he retired at age 32. But then a bad pall fell over him: A business he began with some partners ended with him being pushed out, and an affair with a teenager led him into jail.
But he found redemption in Rwanda, the war-torn country that was trying to rebuild after the genocide that took place there in the 1990s. He took a disparate group of Rwandans, boys who had survived butchering and abject poverty and who fought with their fists to fend off occasional bike thieves, and forged them into Team Rwanda, taking them to races around the globe. One of the members, a young man who lost six brothers in the genocide, Adrien Niyonshuti, made it to the 2012 London Olympics, competing in mountain bike cross-country.
The project may not surprise followers of DiCaprio and Appian Way, but could raise eyebrows for fans of Bay, the destruction maestro behind the Transformers movies. Still, Bay has shown a willingness to occasionally push himself beyond the borders of CGI-tentpoles. Case in point: He is currently directing 13 Hours, the true story of the 2012 attack on an American compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Sources say DiCaprio and Bay connected on the project via Elyse Klaits, Bay’s former assistant-turned-vp. Bay is an animal-rights activist and was a big fan of Virunga. Insiders say both sides came upon the story and decided to team up.