Leonardo DiCaprio is reported to be in talks to play cult leader Jim Jones in an upcoming movie of the same name. The film will be a biopic and according to The Hollywood Reporter, DiCaprio is, as of now, in the final talks before accepting the role.
It is far from the first time the veteran 46-year old actor has played a real-life historical character on the big screen. He played convicted felon Frank Abagnale Jr in ‘Catch Me If You Can’ (2002), and American businessman Howard Hughes in ‘The Aviator’ (2004). He stepped into the shoes of the first Director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover in ‘J. Edgar’ in 2011, and two years later he played the corrupt but charismatic stockbroker, Jordan Belfort, in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street.’
His latest foray into the past is being written by Scott Rosenberg, who most recently wrote ‘Venom’ and the ‘Jumanji’ movies starring Dwayne Johnson and Jack Black. Rosenberg will be credited as an executive producer, with DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson appearing as producers through their Appian Way banner. The film has been taken up by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM).
Since the announcement of DiCaprio’s involvement was released on social media, there has been a wave of confusion, with people confusing the cult leader with Joseph Guillermo Jones II, the American rapper.
Jim Jones started out as a Christian Socialist and civil rights activist, founding the People’s Temple in Indianapolis in 1955. He later moved to California, and then built Jonestown in the seclusion of the forest in Guyana, starting in 1974. Over the 70s, Jones broke with many of the tenets of Christianity, even declaring himself to be God at one point, and believed the US government was corrupt and oppressive.
Within four years of Jonestown being founded, reports of human rights violations began to leak out of the isolated settlement. The US government sent a delegation under Leo Ryan to investigate the rumors. As they were boarding the plane to take them back to the US, Ryan and four defectors of Jones’ cult were shot dead by members of the town.
Later that day, November 18, 1978, Jones persuaded the entire population of Jonestown to commit suicide. 909 people, including 304 people below the age of 17, killed themselves by drinking Flavor Aid which had been poisoned with cyanide. Jones himself was later found dead from a bullet wound which it is believed he gave himself. A 45-minute audio recording of the ‘Jonestown Massacre’ has since been discovered.
The story of Jim Jones’ life has been documented in books, on TV and in film. A recent documentary, ‘Truth and Lies: Jonestown, Paradise Lost,’ came out in 2018, the 40th anniversary of the Massacre, and is currently streaming on Hulu.
Before DiCaprio appears as Jones, however, he will hit screens in Netflix’s ‘Don’t Look Up’ alongside Jennifer Lawrence. The film will be released in December. He has also been working on another collaboration with director Martin Scorsese, ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’, for Apple TV+. The film is currently in post-production, with the release date scheduled for 2022.