The story of one of America’s very first serial killers is coming to the small screen thanks to Hulu. The Devil in the White City will be an adaptation of author Erik Larson’s best-selling historical non-fiction novel of the same name. The film has been in the works for a considerable time, with an on-screen adaptation discussed back in 2010. Although the initial plan was to make a movie based on the book, that is no longer happening. Instead, Hulu is releasing a limited series starring Keanu Reeves.
The miniseries will have eight episodes, but given that it is still in the early stages, not much information has been made public. It can be confirmed that actor Leonardo DiCaprio will be executive producing alongside Martin Scorsese. Reeves, DiCaprio, and Scorsese undoubtedly make quite a formidable trio. Todd Field, known for his work on In the Bedroom and Little Children, which were nominated for an astounding eight Academy Award nominations, is set to direct.
Here is everything we know about The Devil in the White City.
The Devil in the White City: The Plot
Following Larson’s work, the series’ narrative will revolve around the lives of two men. One, a visionary architect Daniel H. Burnham, determined to leave his mark on the 1983 Chicago World’s Fair; the other, Dr. H. H. Holmes, was noted as America’s first modern serial killer. Both men turn the Fair into their own personal playgrounds. However, they play in very different ways. While, for one, the Fair has to do with displaying historically noteworthy architecture in a short period of time, the other uses his identity as a charming doctor to lure countless victims to their death.
If the adaptation stays faithful to its source text, viewers are in for a chilling journey. A description of the novel’s plot reads:
“Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair’s brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country’s most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his “World’s Fair Hotel” just west of the fairgrounds—a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium.”
The Devil in the White City: The Cast
The Matrix and John Wick actor Keanu Reeves is set to take on the role of Daniel H. Burnham. The Devil in the White City will be one of the rare occasions that Reeves has a role on TV. Despite having one-off guest appearances on multiple series, the only part that Reeves has properly taken on was in the Swedish Dicks crime comedy. The series, directed by Peter Settman, ran for two seasons, with its first episode airing in 2016.
For now, Reeves is the only confirmed cast member for the series. Although Leonardo DiCaprio was expected to take on a role, reports are that he will no longer be starring in the series, instead sticking only to executive producing. Since production for the series hasn’t started yet, cast details will most likely remain scarce for now. However, given the talent announced so far, we can, no doubt, expect to see the list grow in time to come.
The Long Road to Production
Before arriving at Hulu, The Devil in the White City had a rather long and rough road. The adaptation, published by Larson in 2003, was picked up multiple times and subsequently dropped. Tom Cruise first picked up the spellbinding novel in the same year it was published. He recruited Kathryn Bigelow as director, but Cruise’s contract expired in 2007 for the second time, and the project was dropped the first time.
It was then picked up by Eric Roth, writer of Forrest Gump, who is said to have written a screenplay that drew the attention of David Fincher. However, carrying on the streak of tough luck, the project was also dropped for the second time.
Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way Productions then acquired the rights to the film in 2010. Warner Bros. joined the project in 2011 with The Imitation Game director Graham Moore. Renowned director Martin Scorsese joined the team of creatives in 2015. The film also moved to Paramount Pictures, with Billy Ray on board to write the script. However, plans for the adaptation changed once again in 2019 when, in a surprise move, the film was reshaped into a series and set to head to Hulu. You could probably say that The Devil in the White City finally got lucky the third time as the project was, technically, not dropped.
In keeping with the winding, long road the adaptation has had thus far, viewers will have to hang on for quite some time before they can enjoy what is sure to be a thrilling narrative. With production set to commence next year, we will most likely only see the series released in 2024. The wait is long, but looking at the positives, this at least gives you time to get your hands on the novel if you haven’t done so yet!