Leonardo DiCaprio set to play Rasputin

Studio Warner Brothers has picked up the rights to Jason Hall's screenplay with the aim of casting the Oscar-nominated star of Django Unchained and The Aviator to take the lead role. DiCaprio reportedly likes elements of the script which centre on Rasputin's life as a twin whose brother died early, leaving him missing the better part of himself.

Grigori Rasputin is a figure who has divided historians. Critics at the time saw him as a charlatan and womaniser who held an unhealthy position of power in the court of the final Russian tsar Nicholas II and may have contributed to his downfall. Rasputin was brought in to help with the care of the Russian heir to the throne, Alexei, who secretly suffered from haemophilia. There is some evidence that his advice may have helped prolong the young tsarevich's life, but he was not so fortunate himself. A group of nobles suspicious of Rasputin's power over (and rumoured sexual relationship with) the Russian tsarina, Alexandra, eventually killed him off in 1916 after several attempts. Despite having been shot four times and poisoned with cyanide, a subsequent autopsy discovered the mystic had in fact been killed by drowning, after his body was dumped into the icy Neva River in St Petersburg.

Hall's screenplays include the upcoming Bradley Cooper drama American Sniper, about a real life US navy seal called Chris Kyle who officially killed over 160 people in the line of duty. He is also working on the project Thank You for Your Service, about soldiers dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder after tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, which Steven Spielberg may direct. – © Guardian News and Media 2013

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