Sunday, August 28, 2016


Cast Me If You Can: No Offer For DiCaprio In Putin Biopic Yet

Leonardo DiCaprio (right) met Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) in St. Petersburg in 2010.
Leonardo DiCaprio (right) met Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) in St. Petersburg in 2010.
By Carl Schreck

It was a purported casting choice that captured imaginations across Russia and beyond: Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio as Russian President Vladimir Putin in a biopic. 

The film project exists, with the alluring teaser: "From the KGB, to Prime Minister…to President. The Man, The Myth!" 

The casting choice, at least for the moment, does not. 

The independent Russian TV channel Dozhd on February 2 cited two unidentified sources "close to the producers of the film," with the working title Putin, as saying that DiCaprio had tentatively agreed to play the role of the authoritarian Russian leader. 

The news surged through Russian-language social media, with the pro-Kremlin news site LifeNews calling DiCaprio's alleged casting a "dream come true" for the American actor, who last month said that playing Putin would "be very, very, very interesting." 

"I would love to play him," DiCaprio, a nominee for a 2016 Oscar for best actor for his role in The Revenant, told the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. 

It seems, however, that Dozhd's sources may have gotten ahead of themselves. 

Grant Cramer, CEO of Knightsbridge Entertainment, which is indeed developing the Putin biopic, told RFE/RL that his company hasn't reached out to DiCaprio.

"I do know Leonardo and consider him one of the finest actors and human beings there is, and so he would be a dream choice. But we haven't gone to him yet," he said in an interview.

Russia's state-owned RIA Novosti news agency cited Valeriy Saaryan, vice president of production for Knightsbridge in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, as saying that four "A-list actors are taking part in the casting" and that the film's director has "two Oscars."

Cramer called this characterization "a little premature." 

"We're in discussions with a major director who's very interested, but actors have not yet been approached," he said, adding that he first heard of the report of DiCaprio’s alleged interest in playing Putin when RFE/RL contacted him for comment.

He said that when the company heard of DiCaprio's interest in playing Putin, "everybody kind of got excited and said we'd better hurry and get the project to the point where we can make an approach."

PHOTO GALLERY: Hollywood Stars Who Could Play Historical Figures

  • Old Josef Stalin -- The rotund Depardieu may have to shed a few kilos if he wants to remind cinemagoers of the Soviet dictator when he films a movie based on the French novel, Stalin's Sofa.

  • Young Josef Stalin -- Sacha Baron Cohen of Borat and Ali G fame could easily be mistaken for the future dictator when he was a mere seminary-school dropout and common criminal known as Koba Dzhugashvili.

  • Vladimir Lenin -- Silver-screen star Leonardo DiCaprio bears a striking resemblance to the founder of the Soviet state.

  • Lavrenty Beria – Veteran film and TV actor Danny DeVito is our choice to play the wily longtime head of the NKVD, the predecessor of the KGB.

  • Leon Trotsky – A bespectacled and bearded Daniel Radcliffe, forever known as Harry Potter, would look good playing the Marxist revolutionary and Soviet politician assassinated on Stalin’s orders in Mexico in 1940.

  • Sergei Kirov – U.S. actor Beau Bridges might not be a household name, but he could be after playing the prominent Bolshevik leader assassinated in 1934 (reputedly on Stalin's orders).

  • Nikolai Yezhov – Johnny Depp would be an ideal choice to play the henchman who headed the NKVD during Stalin's Great Purge from 1936-38 and was executed on Stalin's orders in 1940.

  • Vyacheslav Molotov – We dipped into the The Simpsons' cast of characters to match Ned Flanders with Stalin's longtime foreign minister and namesake of the incendiary bottle bomb.

  • Nikita Khrushchev -- A 1990s version of the energetic U.S. actor and stand-up comedian Don Rickles would be perfect for the role of Stalin's successor.

  • Nadezhda Krupskaya -- Scarlett Johansson, who has ancestral ties to imperial Russia, is uniquely suited to portray the Bolshevik revolutionary and wife of Lenin.

  • Leonid Brezhnev -- Having famously played the ab-ripped Batman, Christian Bale would have to rely more on his fat-man look if he were to play the Soviet leader who followed Khrushchev.

Knightsbridge describes the planned project as "an intimate look into the life and rise of one of the world's most powerful men."

Cramer said filming would likely start early next year.

Neither DiCaprio nor his representatives could be reached for comment on February 2.

Putin and DiCaprio met in 2010 in St. Petersburg, where the Russian leader -- then the country's prime minister -- praised the actor as a "real man" for attending a summit on saving wild tigers. The actor encountered mechanical and weather difficulties on two separate flights en route to the summit in Russia's Tsarist-era capital. 

DiCaprio told Putin that he had two Russian grandparents, and that he had always wanted to travel to St. Petersburg with his grandmother, the BBC reported at the time. 

The original Dozhd report prompted yuks on social media, including photoshopped images melding the two men's faces.

Another Twitter user riffed on The Revenant, in which DiCaprio's character is mauled by a bear, with a photoshopped image mocking Putin's penchant for appearing in Kremlin-sanctioned photoshoots aimed at demonstrating his manliness.


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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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