Keanu Reeves will star in a TV adaptation of “The Devil in White Town,” the hit nonfiction thriller about convicted murderer Dr. HH Holmes and the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.
Reeves will play Daniel H. Burnham, an architect “trying to make history” with his designs for the fair, Hulu said when announcing the limited series Thursday.
The other central role, that of Holmes, has yet to be cast, the streaming service said.
Holmes was a notorious con man who allegedly murdered dozens of people at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. He once managed a hotel at 63rd and Wallace in the Englewood neighborhood. His so-called “murder castle” was complete with trapdoors, secret stairways, even a crematorium.
Erik Larson’s romantic account of the fair – officially called the World’s Columbian Exposition – was published in 2003. The fair’s nickname was White City, due to the color of many of its building exteriors.
Various Hollywood actors circled the book, and Leonardo DiCaprio acquired the rights in 2010, aiming to star in a big-screen version as Holmes. Martin Scorsese would have been staged.
Scorsese, DiCaprio and Reeves are among the show’s producers. There was no immediate word of an on-screen role for DiCaprio in the Hulu Project, and his release date has not been announced.
Reeves has worked almost exclusively in films, including the “Matrix” and “John Wick” franchises.
Holmes, born Herman Webster Mudgett, was linked to and confessed to a number of murders. He was convicted and sentenced to death for one and was executed in 1896.
In the spring of 2017, scientists from the University of Pennsylvania, with support from the Mudgett family and the History Channel, unearthed the grave of HH Holmes. His final resting place is at Holy Cross Cemetery, just outside of Philadelphia.
When Holmes was arrested in Philadelphia, newspaper reports at the time detailed that he pulled off perhaps his biggest heist yet – having someone else hanged and buried in his place.
That’s what brought UPenn’s Dr. Samantha Cox and her team to Holmes’ grave to answer once and for all: Who is buried in the grave of the Chicago ‘Devil’?
“Actually, I took the skull in my hand. I looked into the outlets, which was a scary moment,” said Jeff Mudgett, Holmes’ great-great-grandson.
Archaeologists extracted a DNA sample from the skull’s inner ear for testing against Mudgett at King’s College London.
“Basically the best result they could give us is that the skeleton is a relative of the Mudgett family,” Cox said.
It wasn’t a clear conclusion, so the scientists compared Holmes’ dental records, which were published in an American Medical Association journal, to those of the skeleton.
“From a scientific point of view for us, there’s no doubt (it’s HH Holmes),” Cox said.