The Volkswagen scandal only hit newsstands a few weeks ago. Yet, a Hollywood A-lister has already acquired the rights to make the movie about the debacle that has rocked the entire automotive industry.
Leonardo DiCaprio and his production company, Appian Way, are collaborating with Paramount Pictures to make a movie about the Volkswagen diesel-emissions cheating scandal, according to the studio.
The scandal erupted when it was discovered that VW utilized “defeat device” software to fool United States emissions tests on diesel cars into believing they met certain environmental standards. The defeat devices made sure that the actual emission levels, which were in some cases 40 times the level legally permitted in the United States, were hidden. This hidden software, which switches a vehicle’s engine to a much cleaner mode during testing, may have been installed in over 11 million cars worldwide. Investigations from several governments are underway and lawsuits abound.
With respect to the allegations, former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn said that he acknowledged responsibility for “irregularities found in diesel engines” but claims he did not know anything about the alleged engine manipulation. He stated that, “I am shocked by the events of the past few days. Above all, I am stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible in the Volkswagen Group.” He resigned in light of the scandal.
Paramount Pictures is part of Viacom Inc. and acquired - with DiCaprio’s company - the movie rights to a proposed book on the scandal being written by Jack Ewing. The trade publication, Variety, reported on the actor’s involvement earlier Monday. According to the magazine, acting and directing decisions have not yet been made.
The quickness in acquiring the rights to the VW story follows a current trend in Hollywood. Studios have been looking to seize on business scandals and are aggressively competing for book rights. For example, next year, Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. will release “Deepwater Horizon,” a story about the BP offshore oil platform that exploded in 2010. The film stars Mark Wahlberg. Additionally, Paramount plans to release the film, “The Big Short,” which is based on Michael Lewis’ book about the collapse of the housing market.