Hot Projects: De Niro Makes Magic

It seems street-smart magician David Blaine’s distinctive brand of urban magic–mind reading, sleight of hand and his now famous levitation–caught the attention of quite a few Hollywood hot shots several years ago, including veteran actor Robert De Niro.

Performing his tricks at trendy clubs and restaurants across both coasts, Blaine soon found himself adored by legions of stars–Madonna, Spike Lee, Jack Nicholson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and David Geffen. He captured the heart of singer-songwriter Fiona Apple, though they’ve since broken up, and more recently he’s been attached to Cover Girl model Josie Moran.

Now that’s a life of which movies are made, and De Niro took notice.

In 1997 the “goodfella” bought the rights to make a film about Blaine’s life, and rumors have circulated that Leonardo DiCaprio–a known associate of Blaine’s who also happens to be dating a model, Brazil’s finest Gisele Bündchen–would star.

Big names, cool project, magic, guys who date models and rock stars–it has all the makings of a potential Hollywood blockbuster. So decided to investigate the movie, and the people attached to it, in this first installment of our newest column, Hot Projects.

In with the in crowd

It all started in 1997, when ABC gave Blaine, then 24, his first television special, David Blaine: Street Magic. Here’s the connection. DiCaprio hosted it. Blaine became an overnight success (the network later went on to produce three other specials, David Blaine: Magic Man, David Blaine: Buried Alive and David Blaine: Frozen in Time), and the Titanic star and the good looking trickster with grunge appeal became buds.

Before he knew it, Blaine was running around town partying with DiCaprio‘s posse, which included Tobey Maguire, Lukas Haan and skateboarder Tony Hawk. The posse was known for tearing up the New York club scene and obsessing over–you guessed it–models.

But DiCaprio and Blaine reportedly had a falling out. Some sources blamed it on DiCaprio‘s bratty behavior and jealousy over the attention Blaine was receiving; others rumored it was over a woman. She was probably a model.

Whatever the reason, suffice it to say DiCaprio will not be starring in the film.

“It is not confirmed,” DiCaprio‘s publicist Ken Sunshine said about the role. “It’s a lie.”

So that’s settled. No word yet on who will play Leo.

The De Niro connection

In addition to owning the rights to the story, it’s been said that De Niro will star in the film as a magician who takes Blaine under his wing. While MGM Pictures confirmed that Trick Monkey is on their development list, publicists for De Niro‘s production company, Tribeca Productions, which develops projects in which De Niro serves as producer, director and/or actor, said they had no information available on the film.

Jim Uhls, whose last project was Fight Club starring Brad Pitt, has already written the screenplay.

No one’s talking about who will play Blaine’s various love interests.

We can tell De Niro’s future

Well, we know this much anyway. We’ll see several other De Niro projects before this one ever comes to fruition. In Showtime, about cops who go on a reality TV show to boost the department’s image, De Niro stars with Eddie Murphy and Rene Russo. That just wrapped last month. Also wrapped are About a Boy, starring Hugh Grant, Rachel Weisz, Toni Collette and De Niro, and City by the Sea starring De Niro, Frances McDormand and James Franco.

Along with Billy Crystal, De Niro is also currently in talks to reprise his role as Paul Vitti in a sequel to Analyze This, Analyze This Too.

In 2001 Blaine will bring his magic show to Broadway, and Villard Books publish will his first book, Mysterious Stranger this fall.