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Leto will portray the artist in the biopic, titled Warhol, as well as produce it, along with De Luca, the producer whose credits include such Oscar-winning and -nominated true-life tales as The Social Network and Captain Phillips.
Winter, the Boardwalk Empire creator who wrote The Wolf of Wall Street, will pen the screenplay, using the 1989 Victor Bockris book, Warhol: The Biography, as a jumping-off point. (Leto and De Luca jointly acquired the rights to the book, having had a desire to partner on a project for some time now, according to sources.)
Warhol stormed the art world in the 1960s with works that elevated American consumerism to artistic heights, showing that even Campbell’s soup cans, Coca-Cola bottles and celebrities could be spun into art.
Openly gay before such a thing was accepted, Warhol created an art studio called The Factory that attracted large swaths of New York society (not to mention an unbalanced person or two, as one artist nearly killed Warhol when she shot him in 1968) and cranked out art ranging from silk screens to films to music. Warhol himself managed Lou Reed’s Velvet Underground for a while. In later years, he was a fixture in New York’s famed Studio 54 nightclub scene and mentored a new generation of artists, such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, before dying in 1987.
Warhol was a hypochondriac who, according to friends and acquaintances, could be a cold and shallow person — sometimes quiet, sometimes the center of attention — as well as being a brilliant eccentric who wore wigs and even went to hairdressers to have them cut.
The part seems tailor-made for Leto, who won an Oscar for playing a gay man dying from AIDS in 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club and drew legions of fans for his take on Batman’s insane villain The Joker in this summer’s Suicide Squad. (The actor currently is filming the untitled Blade Runner sequel being directed by Denis Villeneuve.)
The project also plays to De Luca’s demonstrated strength in translating real-life figures to the screen. In addition to adapting the lives of Mark Zuckerberg and Captain Richard Phillips, he brought Oakland A’s coach Billy Beane’s story to screens with the Brad Pitt drama Moneyball. (His next movie heads in the opposite direction: Fifty Shades Darker, the sequel to S&M romancer Fifty Shades of Grey.)
Leto, producing via his Paradox production shingle, and De Luca, producing through his Michael De Luca Productions banner, are not aiming for a low-budget indie with Warhol but rather a strong mainstream project with prestige credentials.
Part of that prestige comes from scribe Winter, who was Oscar-nominated for writing Wolf of Wall Street and won Emmys for his work on The Sopranos and was nominated for Boardwalk Empire. He last co-created HBO’s Vinyl.
Leto, De Luca and Winter are all repped by CAA, which helped to broker the deal.