Could Christian Bale and Nicolas Cage face off as Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison?

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Nikola Tesla is one of history’s greatest scientific minds, and probably the closest we’ve ever come to a real life Tony Stark. His inventions and research, some of which bordered on science-fiction (Death rays!) and which we’re still struggling to duplicate today (wireless electricity!), changed the world. His “War of Currents” with rival inventor Thomas Edison, turned the two men into famed public figures. And yet, when Tesla eventually died, it was penniless and alone in a New York hotel room.

Now, if rumours are to be believed, the tragic story of this almost comic book mad scientist and his rival is about to be brought to life by two actors who’ve portrayed their fair share of comic book characters.

The news that Christian “Gravelly voiced Batman” Bale and Nicolas “My head is on fire” Cage were linked to the roles of Tesla and Edison, respectively, was broken by Wild Rooster (via Bleeding Cool) last month actually, but somehow slipped under the radar. And since then there have been no further substantiating reports either, so it could just be that these actors are merely on somebody’s wish list, rather than truly linked to the project.

There were reports about two years ago that Cage was location scouting in Sarajevo, Bosnia for a movie about Tesla (who was Serbian by birth), but nothing further ever came of it at the time.

But while these actors’ involvement may be in question, the project to bring Tesla’s life to the big screen is certainly a very real thing. Titled Tesla, The Ruler of the World, the screenplay was written by Serbian writer Vladimir Rajčić and director Mike Newell (Prince of Persia, Donnie Brasco, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) has apparently been hovering over it. Rajčić, who is himself an actor, was previously attached to play the role of Tesla in this tale which “will link events from Tesla’s life to a modern day story of technological crisis”.

The film has already received big backing from Universal Studios and is set to shoot in Chicago, where the mayor apparently wrote to the Oscar winning producer of this film, Branko Lustig (Schindler’s List, Gladiator), to inform them that the city sees this “as a film of great importance.”

This is of course not the first time that the names Bale and Tesla have been together, as the scientist – played brilliantly by David Bowie – and his incredible inventions and theories (such as teleportation – yes Tesla was really working on teleportation) featured quite heavily in director Chris Nolan’s Prestige, which Bale starred in.

Here’s an excerpt on Tesla’s life from his Wikipedia page:

Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American inventor, physicist, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, and futurist. He was an important contributor to the use of commercial electricity, and is best known for developing the modern alternating current (AC) electrical supply system. His many revolutionary developments in the field of electromagnetism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were based on the theories of electromagnetic technology discovered by Michael Faraday. Tesla’s patents and theoretical work also formed the basis of wireless communication and the radio.

Born to Serbian parents in the village of Smiljan (now part of Gospić, present day Croatia), Tesla was a subject of the Austrian Empire by birth and later became an American citizen. Because of his 1894 demonstration of short range wireless communication through radio and his eventual victory in the “War of Currents”, he was widely respected as one of the greatest electrical engineers who worked in America. He pioneered modern electrical engineering and many of his discoveries were of groundbreaking importance. In the United States during this time, Tesla’s fame rivaled that of any other inventor or scientist in history or popular culture. Tesla demonstrated wireless energy transfer to power electronic devices in 1891, and aspired to intercontinental wireless transmission of industrial power in his unfinished Wardenclyffe Tower project.

Towards the end of his life in the 1930s, Tesla became reclusive, living alone in a New York City hotel room and only appearing occasionally to make unusual statements to the press. Because of his pronouncements and the nature of his work over the years Tesla gained a reputation in popular culture as the archetypal “mad scientist”. He died penniless and in debt in January, 1943.

Last Updated: July 11, 2012

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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