Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, X-Men: The Last Stand) has been trying to get a Hugh Hefner biopic made since 2007. In light of the Playboy mogul’s recently passing, it seems the project has picked up some new steam, as Ratner has now cast Jared Leto as the silk-pjs-and-smoking-jacket-wearing lead.
Though the film is still in early development at Ratner’s RatPac Entertainment, the director has been working on the project in some form for most of a decade. It was initially set up at Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment in 2007 with Robert Downey Jr. at one point set to play Hefner. Jerry Weintraub picked up the rights when they expired and moved the movie over to Warner Bros. When Weintraub died in 2015, Ratner snagged the rights and set to work making the biopic himself.
“Jared is an old friend,” Ratner told The Hollywood Reporter. “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 director added, “My goal is to do the motion picture as an event.”
Leto apparently never met Hef, though Ratner had attempted to make an introduction back in April at the Playboy Mansion premiere of the Amazon docuseries American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story. Though Hef’s health kept him from meeting guests, Ratner believes there’s plenty of archival material for the notoriously method Leto to work with. “There’s enough footage on Hef out there that Jared will be able to get as much information as he wants,” Ratner said.
According to THR, Ratner is also working on relaunching the late-1960s talk show Playboy After Dark, which Hefner himself hosted.