Leonardo DiCaprio, who portrayed longtime FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and squirrelly billionaire Howard Hughes, is digging into early 20th-century history books again for another big-screen biopic. The Great Gatsby star is in talks to produce and possibly star in a Warner Bros. movie about Woodrow Wilson, the 28th U.S. president, who guided the country through World War I and established many of the progressive policies and bureaucracies that still define American government 100 years later.
Warner Bros. is interested in optioning a recent biography from Pulitzer-winning writer A. Scott Berg (Lindbergh), who spent 12 years digging into Wilson’s life and presidential record, one that has long been overshadowed by the liberal New Deal policies of his spiritual successor, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Wilson was a proud Southerner whose views on race reflected his family’s Confederate sympathies during the Civil War, a college professor who became president of Princeton University before entering politics, and a shrewd politician who was re-elected president in 1916 by promising to keep America out of World War I — and then almost immediately entered the war against Germany and her allies. As the war came to a close and he became the leading proponent for a League of Nations, a peace-keeping organization that Congress ultimately voted against joining, he suffered a debilitating stroke that was hidden from the public and left his wife secretly making presidential decisions.
Today, Wilson is vilified more by those who despise his policies than admired by those who agree with them. Conservative radio host Glenn Beck celebrates Wilson’s death every year and calls him “the most evil guy we’ve ever had in office,” mostly for Wilson’s introduction of a progressive income tax and the establishment of the Federal Reserve. But I digress …
It will be interesting to see whether DiCaprio ultimately stars as Wilson. Not only was the actor once intent on playing Wilson’s political rival, Teddy Roosevelt, in another biopic, but Wilson was 57 years old when he was inaugurated president in 1913. DiCaprio could obviously don some old-age makeup — as he did in J. Edgar — but perhaps the other option is to sit on the project until the actor can age into the role. After all, if the book took 12 years to write, the movie shouldn’t be expected to happen before the next election either.