The assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963 remains one of the most controversial events in American history; even with the planned declassification of over a million related CIA documents in 2017, it’s unlikely that our nation will ever truly find closure.
Now, according to Variety, Inception star Leonardo DiCaprio is preparing to step into the conspiracy maelstrom with his own contribution to the ongoing debate: a feature adaptation of Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartmann’s Legacy of Secrecy: The Long Shadow of the JFK Assassination. DiCaprio will produce the film, and star as FBI informant Jack Van Laningham, whom Waldron and Hartmann claim received the confession of Mafia godfather Carlos Marcello for the 1963 hit on Kennedy. According to the book, the FBI put Van Laningham in place to become Marcello’s confidant as part of a dangerous, long secret operation to connect the mob boss – who ruled organized crime in Louisiana and most of Texas for decades before dying in 1993 – to Lee Harvey Oswald.
DiCaprio will produce the feature through his Warner Bros.-based Appian Way banner with his father, George DiCaprio, who first showed the book to his son. The studio is eyeing a 2013 release for Legacy of Secrecy – to coincide with the 50h anniversary of the Kennedy assassination – so it may be a while before a director is attached to the project.
Legacy of Secrecy will include source material from declassified FBI files form the National Archives that detail the Bureau’s operation and Marcello’s confession to Van Laningham of his involvement, as well as Secret Service files that document the extensive questioning of Marcello’s close associates and family in connection with the assassination. Though Marcello’s name did not appear in the 1964 Warren Report, the House Select Committee on Assassinations admitted that Marcelo and fellow mobster Santo Trafficante had “the motive, means, and opportunity to assassinate President Kennedy.”
But like any good conspiracy theory, Legacy of Secrecy doesn’t stop there: Waldron and Hartmann also claim that Marcello and the Mafia had a role in the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Watergate scandal. The authors are retaining the documentary and TV rights to that story for a later adaptation.
In the 47 years since the assassination, we’ve heard endless conspiracy theories, implicating everyone from Fidel Castro to Lyndon Johnson and the CIA in Kennedy’s death. The vague, lazy conclusions of the Warren Commission (a single bullet managed to hit Kennedy and caused all of Governor Connally’s wounds, i.e. the “Magic Bullet” theory) and the 1976 US House Select Committee on Assassinations (there was probably a conspiracy, but there wasn’t enough information to determine more) have done little to alleviate years of fevered speculation. Legacy of Secrecy reopens that conversation with mountains of new evidence that will be difficult to ignore.
Even though this is far from the first time Hollywood has explored the conspiracies surrounding Kennedy’s death – filmmaker Oliver Stone covered similar territory in JFK (1991) – it will be exciting to see what DiCaprio will have to offer when Legacy of Secrecy opens in November of 2013.