Warner Bros has outbid other film studios to secure the rights to a script on the life of Alan Turing.
The Time Warner studio paid an unspecified seven-figure sum for the rights to The Imitation Game, by first-time screenwriter Graham Moore. Moore's screenplay is an adoption of Alan Turing: The Enigma, a biography of the pioneering computer scientist, mathematician and wartime codebreaker by Andrew Hodges.
Next year marks the 100th anniversary of Alan Turing's birth, with numerous events organised to celebrate Turing's life. The ink has already dried on Warners' script deal, but speculation on who might play Turing in a biopic has already begun, coders' mag i-programmer reports.
Leonardo DiCaprio, whose star has risen with recent solid performances in films such as Inception and Shutter Island, is the early favourite. Nikki Finke, of Deadline Hollywood, writes that DiCaprio's interest gave the studio the confidence to outbid independent filmmakers for rights to the property.
"I’ve learned that the studio outbid half a dozen indie companies because Leonardo DiCaprio 'has the inside track' to play the lead and was chasing the project," Finke writes. "But so far no talent is attached."
"I hear Ron Howard is interested in directing," she adds.
Howard played Richie Cunningham in the '50s sitcom Happy Days before going on to direct Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind. The latter Oscar-winning film focused on the life of another tortured mathematical genius, John Nash. More recently Howard helmed critically panned adaptations of Dan Brown potboilers The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons.
Attaching DiCaprio and Howard to the project guarantees funding but neither are particularly imaginative choices. A Brit actor, such as Tom Hardy, who played alongside DiCaprio in Inception before starring in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, might bring far more to the role. We're sure Reg readers would have other casting ideas.
It's unclear which part of Turing's life any film will focus upon. Turing's wartime achievements in cracking Enigma and other German wartime ciphers failed to count in his favour after he was criminally prosecuted for being homosexual, and forced to undergo humiliating chemical castration and psychiatric treatment before he eventually committed suicide.
Hollywood has a poor record in bringing stories about the wartime exploits of Britain's cryptographers to screen. The film U-571 re-wrote WWII history by replacing Brit sailors with US navy men as the heroes in the capture of a Naval Enigma machine and associated codebooks. Enigma, the 2001 British film about the codebreakers at Bletchley Park, omits any mention of Alan Turing, instead placing a heterosexual (fictional) character at the centre of the action.
The Imitation Game is not the first dramatisation of Turing's life. Derek Jacobi played Turing in the play Breaking the Code by Hugh Whitmore, which was later filmed. Turing is the central character in the upcoming Channel 4 documentary, provisionally titled The Hero of Station X. The dramatisation of therapy sessions between Turing and analyst Dr Franz Greenbaum will be central to the documentary, which will also feature interviews with those who knew him as well as contemporary technologists who pay tribute to his pioneering work. ®