Updated Nov. 2, 2017, 7:35 a.m. PT: Following multiple women’s accounts accusing director Brett Ratner of sexual harassment, assault and rape, Warner Bros. has killed his planned Hugh Hefner biopic. The studio severed all ties with Ratner soon after Jared Leto, who was rumored to be playing the lead, denied having any involvement with the film.
“Jared Leto is not and was not attached to a Brett Ratner-directed Hugh Hefner film, nor will he be working with him in the future,” Leto’s rep told Deadline. “Earlier reports were incorrect and not confirmed by his representatives.”
Meanwhile, Ratner, who originally denied the claims against him, says he’s distancing himself from Warner Bros. while he works on his “personal issues.”
Well, this is certainly interesting news no matter which way you slice it: Jared Leto will play Hugh Hefner in a planned biopic. News the famed method actor was confirmed to be stepping into the shoes of the Playboy mogul broke early Tuesday morning, and the casting decision is sure to be notorious for a couple of reasons. Director Brett Ratner, who was the guiding force behind Rush Hour 2 and X-Men: The Last Stand, is also set to direct this biopic about Hefner’s life.
The project is still in the super-, super-early stages of development, which only adds to the surprise this film has landed its leading star already. According to The Hollywood Reporter, who first reported the news, Ratner had his reasons for wanting Leto to play Hefner. “Jared is an old friend,” Ratner explained. “When he heard I got the rights to Hef’s story, he told me, ‘I want to play him. I want to understand him.’ And I really believe Jared can do it. He’s one of the great actors of today.”
There’s no doubt that even though Leto has reportedly never met Hefner (there were plans to arrange a meeting through Ratner, but Hefner’s health was failing at the time according to THR), there is more than enough video and print footage for Leto to study and use to craft his own version of Hefner.
The news is additionally surprising when you consider the fact that Hefner very recently died on Sept. 27 at age 91. The founder of Playboy led a colorful and controversial life, and while there have been a plethora of opinions about what kind of legacy he leaves behind, it will no doubt be interesting to see how Leto interprets the man behind the legend. Announcements of planned biopics aren’t typically made so soon following the death of the subject of said biopic, so once the dust settles around the shock of this news, there will no doubt be intense curiosity about what events in Hefner’s life this film will cover.
For now, all we have are visions of Leto in Hefner’s infamous smoking jacket surrounded by Playboy Bunnies — a very interesting thought to say the least.