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Woodrow Wilson could very well be the next president elected for big-screen treatment.
Warner Bros. is in early negotiations to pick up the rights to Wilson, the just-released biography of the 28th president by A. Scott Berg. Leonardo DiCaprio, who is attached to star as Wilson, will also produce the adaptation with Appian Way’s Jennifer Davisson Killoran and Berg.
The book, which hit shelves last week, has received generally positive reviews for its intimate portrait of Wilson, who was elected president in 1912 and guided the nation through World War I.
Berg offers up a heroic, larger-than-life Wilson, emphasizing his progressive achievements like the creation of the Federal Reserve and his crusade in support of the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations while downplaying his weak record on civil liberties and civil rights for African Americans. Wilson remains a deeply controversial figure to professional historians and a villain to many on the right (notably Glenn Beck).
Berg’s Wilson offers several well-narrated dramatic moments that could serve as the basis for a film: Wilson’s 1919 barnstorming tour of America to build support for the League of Nations that led to his stroke might be the most obvious. Other contenders include his romancing of Edith Galt and their 1915 White House wedding (Wilson’s first wife died in 1914, one year into his term. He’s the last president to marry in the White House), the 1912 campaign and the decision to enter the war in 1917.
Before becoming president, Wilson was a professor (and football coach) at Wesleyan University, the president of Princeton University and, from 1910-12, the governor of New Jersey. He’s the only president with a Ph.D.
Wilson was a hero to Berg, who had a photo of the president in his bedroom while growing up and spent 12 years researching the book. Berg attended Princeton (like Wilson) before embarking on a full-time career as a biographer after graduating in 1971.
A longtime Los Angeles resident who graduated from Palisades Charter High School, Berg comes with Hollywood connections. His brother is Resolution head Jeff Berg and his partner is producer Kevin McCormick.
Lynn Harris brought the project into the studio and will oversee.
Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln proved that certain stories deserve the big-screen treatment. Lincoln grossed $275 million worldwide and won two Oscars out of its 12 nominations.
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