Devil in the White City: everything we know about true crime drama

The Devil in the White City book cover
(Image credit: Penguin Random House)

The story of one of America's first serial killers is trying to make its way to TV with the adaptation of Devil in the White City, with big names including Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese behind it.

A project based on the best-selling non-fiction book from Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City has been in the works for years, dating as far back as 2010 when DiCaprio optioned the rights with the hope to turn it into a movie with him as the star and Scorsese directing. However, the show has had some bumps along the way. In fact, recent developments has it closer to joining the ranks of cancelled 2023 shows than coming to air.

Here is everything that we know about Devil in the White City.

Devil in the White City release date

Devil in the White City had been slated to as a Hulu original series, but the streaming service is no longer developing the show.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Hulu is not moving forward with plans for a limited series adaptation. The project is now going to be shopped with the hopes of finding a new home.

This of course means that we are even further away from potentially seeing Devil in the White City premiere on TV.

Devil in the White City plot

Devil in the White City tells two parallel stories of men who would leave their mark on history at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The first is Daniel H. Burnham, an architect who was the driving force behind the planning of the World’s Fair, which included displays of the lightbulb and the Ferris Wheel for the first time. The other is Dr. H. H. Holmes, who is regarded as America's first modern serial killer.

Erik Larson wrote the Devil in the White City best-selling book.

Devil in the White City cast

Keanu Reeves was attached to play Daniel H. Burnham in the series, but dropped out, per Variety. The Matrix and John Wick star was the only attached star when the series was officially announced, though no reason was given at this time. Leonardo DiCaprio had been attached to star in Devil in the White City early on, but at this time it is not expected for DiCaprio to appear in the series.

The story from The Hollywood Reporter detailing that the adaptation was not moving forward at Hulu noted that Jeremy Allen White (The Bear) and Jude Law (Peter Pan & Wendy) are still in talks for the two lead roles (it is not clear who would be playing who) should the project be picked up somewhere else.

Devil in the White City director

With the other big name being Martin Scorsese, one could easily think that the Goodfellas director is going to be behind the camera for Devil in the White City. While Scorsese has directed some TV episodes before (most notably the pilots for Boardwalk Empire and Vinyl), he is not expected to direct any episodes for Devil in the White City.

Another Oscar-nominated director, Todd Field (TÁR), was in line to direct the limited series, but he dropped out shortly after Keanu Reeves did.

Matt Ross (Silicon Valley, American Horror Story) is reportedly in talks to direct.

Devil in the White City trailer

With all the turmoil going on with the show in pre-production, we're far away from a trailer coming out. But if/when that or any other news about Devil in the White City is shared we will update this post. 

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.