Leonardo DiCaprio Secures Rights to Book About Black Brothers Kidnapped for Circus Freak Show

George and Willie Muse (Pinterest)

On the heels of the release of a new book about kidnapped Black brothers with albinism, a movie on their story is in development.

Deadline reported Paramount and Appian Way scored rights to adapt Beth Macy’s book on the true story of George and Willie Muse. Truevine: Two Brothers, A Kidnapping, And A Mother’s Quest; A True Story Of The Jim Crow South was released Oct. 18.

It tells the story of the Muse brothers, who were kidnapped as young boys and sent into the circus. The children of a sharecropper family, who lived in Truevine, Virginia during the Jim Crow era, the Muses were lured away by a white man who offered them candy.

They were whisked away from their tobacco farm in 1899 and traveled around the globe as circus performers. The boys were forced to portray “sheep-headed freaks” and “Ambassadors from Mars” because of their albino skin. In their disappearance, their mother spent 28 years searching for them.

The book’s description on Amazon.com asks the question, “Where were the brothers better off? On the world stage as stars, or in poverty at home?” Causing an author at Shadow and Act to ask the important question of whether this makes room for a white savior. The posit means the author is concerned with a white savior character.

“So one can imagine a scenario in which the boys’ captor may be painted as more of a, dare I say, ‘savior’ who believes his act rescued them from lives of poverty, and turned them into stars.”

For the film version, Leonardo DiCaprio and his Appian Way production partner Jennifer Davisson will lead the movie. DiCaprio will star in the film, but it is unclear who he will play.

As for the Muse brother’s story, they were not the only non-white people in history subjected to such a cruel fate. Black people have been kidnapped and paraded for the enjoyment of others for some time.

"Truevine" Hachette

“Truevine”by Beth Macy (Hachette)

Atlanta Black Star reported Europeans created human zoos during the 19th and 20th centuries. Usually, Black people were forced to live in cages much like zoo animals of today.

Photos collected from the inhumane displays depict animalistic acts. They include white spectators feeding a young Black girl, and Ota Benga – a Congolese pygmy  – forced to carry chimpanzees. A paralyzed and blind enslaved African woman described as George Washington’s nurse was also on display.

Most of the Black people captured for the dehumanizing entertainment died within their first year of detention.

Back to top