The scandal that’s engulfed Volkswagen AG has made for great for headlines, but will it also make for a good movie?
Apparently, Hollywood thinks so, and Leonardo DiCaprio, an actor who has taken on scandalous and eccentric business behavior in a number of his films, is already working on a project centered around the German automaker.
DiCaprio, production partner Jennifer Davisson and Paramount Studios have already acquired the rights to a book planned about the VW emissions scandal, the studio and New York literary agency Marty Rusoff and Associates have confirmed.
DiCaprio has, among other things, portrayed legendary eccentric Howard Hughes, as well as Jordan Bellfort, a securities and exchange scam artist jailed for 22 months. Bellfort’s notorious sex-and-drugs lifestyle became the centerpiece of the film, “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
But DiCaprio has also shown a strong interest in the automobile interest. He was an early and high-profile owner of the Toyota Prius and later went on to invest in the struggling plug-in hybrid maker Fisker Automotive.
DiCaprio has also become one of the Hollywood celebrities most noted for their involvement in the environmental movement.
It’s unclear whether DiCaprio will actually star in the film or simply serve as a producer through the Appian Way production company he runs with partner Davisson. It’s also uncertain exactly how the movie would take shape considering the “whodunit” aspect of the Volkswagen scandal has yet to fully unfold. But agent Rusoff said the book by New York Times journalist Jack Ewing will cover the “more, better, faster” that led to VW’s troubles.
(Just following orders? Click Here to see how the VW scandal came together.)
Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency disclosed that VW has secretly embedded a “defeat device” in the computer technology operating its EA 189 engines, software code that could reduce emissions from the 2.0-liter diesel during testing. In real world use, the engine may produce as much as 40 times the permitted level of smog-causing oxides of nitrogen.
The technology was installed in 11 million diesel vehicles sold worldwide, VW has acknowledged, including 482,000 in the U.S. market. The maker has temporarily halted sales of vehicles with the EA 189 engine and is planning a worldwide recall set to begin in January, though it has yet to win approval for that effort from the EPA.
During testimony before Congress last week, Volkswagen of America CEO Michael Horn declared the cheating was done by “a couple of software engineers,” an assertion greeted by intense skepticism, one lawmaker countering that VW was actually engaged in “a massive cover-up.”
Indeed, if that turns out to be the case, “the cover-up would be worse than the crime,” suggested David Cole, director-emeritus of the Center for Auto Safety.
(For more on VW’s grilling on Capitol Hill, Click Here.)
The scandal has touched off a wave of investigations, including probes by both German prosecutors and the U.S. Justice Department, as well as more than a half-dozen different class action lawsuits so far.
Complicating matters, a new study, as reported in TheDetroitBureau.com on Monday, suggests Volkswagen of America may have violated U.S. law by underreporting the number of injuries and fatalities suffered in crashes involving its vehicles. Both Fiat Chrysler and Honda have faced heavy fines during the last two years for similar violations.
The troubles facing Volkswagen have already led to the ouster of a number of key figures, including long-time CEO Martin Winterkorn. But who might serve as the villain in the tale – and whether anyone will become the story’s hero – has yet to become clear.
(Did VW cheat on crash reporting, too? Click Here to find out.)