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[dropcap]H[/dropcap]e’s fast-carving a name for himself as Hollywood’s Mr Versatile, but being cast as evil Russian monk Rasputin could be Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest test so far.

Having all but shed the pretty-boy image that helped catapult him to stardom, the star of Romeo &Juliet and Titanic has taken on much grittier, more 3-dimensional roles since, as movies such as The Great Gatsby have proven. The latter did at least see him play a lovable rogue, but while indisputably a rogue, there was nothing at all lovable about Rasputin.

Now I’m sorry to have to do this, but this looks a convenient point to conduct a short history lesson. What has fascinated scholars about Grigori Rasputin (to give him his full name) over the years, and will no doubt make for a memorable movie, is how he supposedly played a pivotal role in the collapse of the Romanov dynasty, thus changing the entire face of Russian history. How pivotal is hotly debated, but Rasputin is infamous for the hypnotic spell he cast over Tsar Nicholas II and family, with a large helping of corruption, debauchery and murder as the backdrop – blockbuster material or what?!

Those of you who were nodding off during the last paragraph may at least be willing to take the trip to your local fleapit purely because DiCaprio is playing the lead; there’s no doubting the man’s pulling power. Many were under the impression that he was taking a sabbatical from acting, but there aren’t many who would turn down the challenge, not to mention the potential accolades, that the part of Rasputin would bring.

Throw into the equation that this biopic is set to reveal some previously unknown facts about the sinister cleric, as uncovered by the film’s writer,Jason Dean Hall, and we could end up with a picture as mysterious as Rasputin himself….

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