MGM will be putting the story of one of history’s most notorious cult leaders on the big screen. The studio has just given the greenlight to Jim Jones, a new movie starring Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio as the infamous religious cult leader who orchestrated the mass suicide at Jonestown in 1978, claiming more than 900 lives. DiCaprio is also producing the feature through his Appian Way banner alongside Jennifer Davisson.
Executive producer Scott Rosenberg (Venom) wrote the script for Jim Jones. The movie is directly based on the real-life tragedy and the events leading up to it, with Jim Jones constructing Jonestown in Guyana in 1974 and convincing hundreds of followers to live with him there in a socialist society free from U.S. government control. In 1978, a U.S. Rep visited Jonestown to investigate the notorious cult and was murdered by Jones’ followers along with a group of defectors.
After the killings, Jim Jones ordered the deaths by suicide of all of his followers, consisting primarily of having them drinking Flavor Aid mixed with cyanide. By the end of the horrific incident, 918 people in Jonestown were dead, and more than 300 of them were children. The tragedy makes Jones one of the most infamous cult leaders of all time, inspiring a plethora of documentaries as well as various TV and movie portrayals. 2016’s The Veil was also heavily inspired by Jim Jones with Thomas Jane playing a very similar cult leader named Jim Jacobs.
Leonardo DiCaprio, who won the Best Actor Oscar for his role for 2016’s The Revenant, takes on one of his darkest roles yet with Jim Jones. Before then, he can next be seen in Adam McKay’s comedy Don’t Look Up as part of an all-star ensemble cast that also includes other big stars like Jennifer Lawrence, Jonah Hill, Timothee Chalamet, Cate Blanchett, Ariana Granda, and Meryl Streep. The acclaimed actor will also star in Martin Scorsese’s upcoming Western drama Killers of the Flower Moon with Robert De Niro, Jesse Plemons, Lily Gladstone, and Brendan Fraser.
With true crime growing more and more popular in the modern era, there has been more attention on personalities like Jim Jones in recent years. Cults in general have also been getting more focus in the media as of late, with Heaven’s Gate and Marshall Applewhite also back in the spotlight. That religious group, which saw the deaths by suicide of nearly 40 members in 1997 under the belief they’d be boarding an awaiting spacecraft, was featured in the recent HBO Max docuseries Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults.
Jim Jones does not have a release date set at this time, but MGM is planning to release the feature in movie theaters. We have seen Leonardo DiCaprio playing some rather dastardly characters in the past, and though he already has seven total Academy Award nominations, there’s a good chance he could line up another if he delivers another solid performance as the infamous cult leader. It’s not clear when shooting is set to begin on the Jim Jones movie. This news was first reported by Deadline.