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Jonathan Levine Writing/Directing ‘Street Dreams’ Based On Life Of Nas & Lasse Hallström Takes On ‘Rockefeller’

Jonathan Levine Writing/Directing 'Street Dreams' Based On Life Of Nas & Lasse Hallström Takes On 'Rockefeller'

It seems we’re only entering the streaming content arms race. With Netflix having planted the flag and Amazon Studios making a run for it, XBox Live Entertainment is adding to their own growing slate of projects with something they hope will connect with their button-smashing audience.

They’ve wisely tapped Jonathan Levine to write and direct the hip-hop drama series “Street Dreams” (tip: get a new name). The half-hour show will be loosely based on the life of hip-hop legend Nas, and will take place in 1990s Queensbridge (where the rapper grew up), looking at the rap game (duh), family and life in general. It seems like they are still sorting out the exact details. Anyway, this is all a familiar milieu for Levine, whose NYC-set “The Wackness” oozed 1990s hip-hop from its pores and its soundtrack (which included “The World Is Yours” by Nas), so this seems right up his alley. That said, we’d wager it may have to wait until he’s done with that Seth Rogen/Joseph Gordon-Levitt Christmas comedy he’s shooting this summer.

From music studio to boardroom we bounce as Lasse Hallström has been slated to direct an adaptation of “Titan: The Life Of John D. Rockefeller” by Ron Chernow. The “Dallas Buyers Club” scribe Craig Borten will pen the screenplay about the life of America’s first billionaire, philanthropist and founder of Standard Oil. It’s an epic story to be sure; here’s the Amazon synopsis: 

Born the son of a flamboyant, bigamous snake-oil salesman and a pious, straitlaced mother, Rockefeller rose from rustic origins to become the world’s richest man by creating America’s most powerful and feared monopoly, Standard Oil. Branded “the Octopus” by legions of muckrakers, the trust refined and marketed nearly 90 percent of the oil produced in America.

Rockefeller was likely the most controversial businessman in our nation’s history. Critics charged that his empire was built on unscrupulous tactics: grand-scale collusion with the railroads, predatory pricing, industrial espionage, and wholesale bribery of political officials. The titan spent more than thirty years dodging investigations until Teddy Roosevelt and his trustbusters embarked on a marathon crusade to bring Standard Oil to bay.

While providing abundant new evidence of Rockefeller’s misdeeds, Chernow discards the stereotype of the cold-blooded monster to sketch an unforgettably human portrait of a quirky, eccentric original. A devout Baptist and temperance advocate, Rockefeller gave money more generously–his chosen philanthropies included the Rockefeller Foundation, the University of Chicago, and what is today Rockefeller University–than anyone before him. Titan presents a finely nuanced portrait of a fascinating, complex man, synthesizing his public and private lives and disclosing numerous family scandals, tragedies, and misfortunes that have never before come to light.

John D. Rockefeller’s story captures a pivotal moment in American history, documenting the dramatic post-Civil War shift from small business to the rise of giant corporations that irrevocably transformed the nation. With cameos by Joseph Pulitzer, William Randolph Hearst, Jay Gould, William Vanderbilt, Ida Tarbell, Andrew Carnegie, Carl Jung, J. Pierpont Morgan, William James, Henry Clay Frick, Mark Twain, and Will Rogers, Titan turns Rockefeller’s life into a vivid tapestry of American society in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is Ron Chernow’s signal triumph that he narrates this monumental saga with all the sweep, drama, and insight that this giant subject deserves.

This is still in early stages but it’s easy to see the drama and spectacle the story contains. [Deadline/Deadline]

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