“Jared is an old friend,” says Ratner, 48, who will direct the film. “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.”
The project is in early development with Ratner’s RatPac Entertainment. The director-producer has been set on helming the movie since 2007, when it was initially set up at Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment. Robert Downey Jr. had once been attached to play Hef.
When the rights expired, they were purchased by producer Jerry Weintraub (Ocean’s Eleven, HBO’s Westworld) for Warner Bros. After Weintraub died in 2015, Ratner snapped up the rights for his own company. Says Ratner, “My goal is to do the motion picture as an event.”
In April, Ratner invited Leto to the Playboy Mansion for the premiere of Amazon’s docuseries American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story, which doubled as a celebration of Hefner turning 91.
Ratner had hoped to introduce Leto to the man he’d be playing on the big screen, but Hefner was in failing health and not greeting guests that day. But Ratner isn’t worried. “There’s enough footage on Hef out there that Jared will be able to get as much information as he wants,” he says.
Ratner also plans to reboot the Hefner-hosted, late-1960s talk show Playboy After Dark.
Leto is repped by CAA and will next appear in Blade Runner 2049.
This article originally appeared in The Hollywood Reporter.