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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.

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."

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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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    Carl Schreck

    Carl Schreck is an award-winning investigative journalist who serves as RFE/RL's enterprise editor. He has covered Russia and the former Soviet Union for more than 20 years, including a decade in Moscow. He has led investigations into corruption, cronyism, and disinformation campaigns in Russia and Central Asia, as well as on poisoning attacks against Kremlin opponents and assassinations of Iranian exiles in the West. Schreck joined RFE/RL in 2014.

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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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