February 29, 2024

Christopher Hampton, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “The Father” and “The Dangerous Liaisons,” is set to adapt Walter Isaacson’s acclaimed biography “Leonardo Da Vinci” for Universal Pictures.

Universal Pictures had fiercely chased rights to the hot literary property six years ago, and was outbid by Paramount, which developed the project with Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way. Now that Universal has finally secured those rights, it has tapped Hampton to pen the adaptation, which seems to be the perfect material for the Oscar winning writer whose movies typically lure A-list talent.

Hampton’s screenplays include “Atonement,” “Dangerous Liaisons,” “A Dangerous Method” and more recently Florian Zeller’s “The Father,” which won two Oscars, for best adapted screenplay and actor (for Anthony Hopkins). Hampton has also been celebrated for his plays and musicals that have garnered two Tony Awards, an Olivier Award, and the New York Theatre Critics Circle Award.

Hampton is believed to have completed a first draft of the project prior to the WGA strike. It’s unknown at this stage whether DiCaprio, who was previously attached to produce and star as Da Vinci, is still involved in the project.

Universal’s senior VP of production development, Ryan Jones, will oversee the project on behalf of the studio. 

Isaacson’s book weaves a narrative that connects Leonardo Da Vinci’s art to his science, and is based on thousands of pages from the painter and inventor’s notebooks and discoveries about his life and work. The book also sheds light on lesser-known chapters of Da Vinci’s life and personality. A pioneer who was then considered an outlier, Da Vinci received no formal education and was born an illegitimate child. He was also gay which was considered a crime in 15th century Italy.

Isaacson is a best-selling author and historian who is known for writing definitive biographies of powerful figures. Besides da Vinci, Isaacson has written biographies of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein and most recently Elon Musk. His book on Steve Jobs was turned into Danny Boyle’s film which was nominated for a pair of Oscars for Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet.

Hampton is represented by CAA and Casarotto Ramsay & Associates. Isaacson is represented by CAA. CAA brokered the rights deal for Universal’s adaptation of Leonardo Da Vinci.

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