Jared Leto will portray late Playboy founder Hugh Hefner in an upcoming biopic movie, reports have confirmed.
The film will be directed by Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, X-Men: The Last Stand) and is said to be in the “early” stages of development.
Robert Downey Jr was originally set to play Hefner but now Ratner has announced that Leto has signed on for the role. Hefner passed away last week (September 28) at 91.
“Jared is an old friend,” Ratner explained. “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.”
“My goal is to do the motion picture as an event,” the director added.
Ratner had originally been keen on having Leto meet Hefner for tips on how to portray the porn icon. However, following Hefner’s death, the filmmaker says: “There’s enough footage on Hef out there that Jared will be able to get as much information as he wants.”
Hefner began publishing Playboy in his kitchen at home in 1953. It became the largest-selling men’s magazine in the world, shifting seven million copies a month at its peak. Over the years, the adult magazine interviewed huge icons including John Lennon, civil rights leader Martin Luther and Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro.
Among a host of tributes, Cooper Hefner, his son, said his father would be “greatly missed by many”. Kim Kardashian described herself as “so honoured to have been a part of the Playboy team”, while Paris Hilton said she was “so sad” to hear of the news.
There has also been criticism over the tributes to Hefner. Writer Caitlin Moran described the Playboy Mansion as “basically a Lady Zoo” on Twitter.
Hefner has been buried next to Marilyn Monroe. The first edition of Playboy featured a set of nude photographs of Monroe that Hefner had bought for $200. They had originally been shot for a 1949 calendar. Hefner later attributed much of his immediate success to the inclusion of a nude picture of Monroe.