George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp battle to play Frank Sinatra their way
Three of Hollywood's leading men are in the frame to star in Martin Scorsese's forthcoming Frank Sinatra biopic
Source: The Observer
Together they have earned almost £3bn at the box office. But with only one best supporting actor Oscar between them, George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp are all fighting to land the role that will surely give the victor the best chance yet of securing the critical acclaim to match their earning power.
All three A-listers are in the frame to play Frank Sinatra in Martin Scorsese's forthcoming biopic, and each has a powerful backer. Scorsese, who won his first best director Oscar in 2006 for The Departed, wants his current muse DiCaprio to play the Rat Pack singer. The two are putting the finishing touches to Shutter Island, their fourth film together, before Scorsese turns his attention to making Sinatra next year.
Executives at Universal, the studio financing the film, are pushing for Depp to play Sinatra, after being impressed by his performance as bank robber John Dillinger in Public Enemies this year.
But Sinatra's daughter, Tina, has her own view of how her father should be portrayed, which critics feel would be a sanitised life story. She favours Clooney, in what would be his most challenging role to date, as a safe pair of hands.
Reports in America suggest she is worried that Scorsese, who did not flinch at portraying the dark side of boxer Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull and billionaire Howard Hughes in The Aviator, may favour giving Sinatra the same treatment. The New York Post quoted a source close to the Sinatra family saying: "Marty wants it to be hard-hitting and showcase the violent, sexually charged, hard-drinking Frank, but Tina wants to show the softer side of her dad and let the focus be on the music. The 60s were a very swinging time for Frank – he was having sex with a garden variety of bimbos and cementing his Rat Pack status. It's a really key time to his mythology. And Tina really wants to make sure that a sanitised Frank comes through, and that it's not overly negative."
"Clooney would be my choice," said Dan Jolin, features editor at Empire magazine. "I think he has the requisite easy charisma to pull it off in terms of Sinatra's onstage persona, although I think all three choices are perhaps too likeable to sell me Sinatra's dark side – the rages, the vindictiveness, and so on. It should be a warts-and-all story, hands down. That's where the real drama will come from and it certainly worked for Jake LaMotta. Also, there's nothing people enjoy seeing more than an icon being creatively and excitingly tarnished."
Brandon Lee, from the Independent Film Channel, said: "I've got high hopes that someone will have an intervention with Scorsese regarding his Leonardo DiCaprio addiction in time for the casting. Scorsese is the right director to helm such a picture, his love and deft handling of cool, macho packs of guys is half the battle. But it's his choice of lead that worries me. Of course, Scorsese wants a violent, sexed-up, mob-related picture. Tina reportedly prefers a softer approach that focuses on the music. Clearly, she should be removed from the decision-making process, but we can't blame her either."
As the executive producer who has granted permission on behalf of the Sinatra estate for Scorsese to use all of her father's famous songs, it is Tina's opinion that could hold sway.
At least whoever wins does not have to worry about singing. Any music in the film will come from Sinatra's own recordings, after Universal and production partners Mandalay successfully spent two years negotiating with Frank Sinatra Enterprises for the right to use his voice. The script will be written by Phil Alden Robinson, who served as both screenwriter and director of Field of Dreams and Sneakers.
Scorsese's picture is the first big-screen movie depicting the man known as the Chairman of the Board, who died of a heart attack in 1998 aged 82. Sinatra was raised in New Jersey by Italian immigrants and won 10 Grammy awards and a best supporting actor Oscar.
Off screen he led the Rat Pack, famous for their parties as much as performances at Las Vegas casinos during the 1960s. The group also included Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford. Sinatra's life filled the pages of gossip columnists with tales of sexual intrigues, presidential friendships and mafia links. Producer Cathy Schulman said: "Everyone knows Marty Scorsese is a final-cut director. So there had to be a lot of trust that he would tell this story in a way that didn't destroy Sinatra's memory."