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Secret Design Studio

Frank Lloyd Wright murder movie "Taliesin" with Brad Pitt speculation?

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Secret Design Studio is quietly pleased that Hollywood is looking towards Australian director, Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy, Breaker Morant, Mao's Last Dancer) to develop and direct a movie surrounding the tragedy of the Taliesin murders. Frank Lloyd Wright's mistress, her two children, and four others were brutally murdered in his compound, called "Taliesin",  while he was away in Chicago.  

With Beresford's fantastic track record of authentic period productions we can look forward to seeing the wonderful interiors of Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin on the big screen. This should increase the awareness of the importance of 20th century architecture, as well as the influence Frank Lloyd Wright had on many 20th century architects, and even in the way houses are designed today.

While it would be stretching the truth to say that Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin could be classified as mid-century modern, as it is early 20th century, his original designs and his use of open-plan living influenced many architects throughout the 20th century. 

Secret Design Studio hopes that Beresford can make the sets as authentic as possible from the original documentation.  The photos here show Taliesin today, however it was first rebuilt by Frank Lloyd Wright after the fire that was started by the murderer in 1914.  It was destroyed a second time by fire in 1925, possibly by an electrical fault, so the building now standing is Taliesin version III.   

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Quoting from the Hollywood Reporter:

"Producers J. Todd Harris and Ed Bachrach are behind the film, about the fabled American architect, which was written by Nicholas Meyer. Veteran filmmaker Bruce Beresford has signed on to develop and direct Taliesin, a film about fabled American architect Frank Lloyd Wright from writer Nicholas Meyer. 

The title refers to the architect’s former home and studio in rural Spring Green, Wis., where the key events in the film take place. The rambling hillside compound, considered a masterpiece of Prairie-style architecture, was the focus of scandal as Wright built it for himself and his married mistress Martha "Mamah" Cheney. In 1914, while Wright was away, a domestic worker murdered Cheney, her two children and four others by locking them inside and setting fire to the building.

“It’s a very good script,” Beresford told The Hollywood Reporter. “It doesn’t cover his whole life, just a small section of it, and it doesn’t whitewash him into some sort of saint." Beresford, who directed the best picture Oscar winner Driving Miss Daisy (1990) and was nominated for best director forTender Mercies (1983), says he sparked to telling the tale of the private life of one of the greatest architects ever. 

“There’s a documentary by Ken Burns [the 1998 film, Frank Lloyd Wright] that’s quite good, but it’s odd that there’s never been a [feature] film about him,” Beresford said.Producers J. Todd Harris, of Branded Pictures Entertainment, and Chicago-based Ed Bachrach, of Kartemquin Films, sent Beresford the script. They are currently raising money for the project, and Beresford has recently been scouting locations in and around Chicago. Who would Beresford like to play the lead? “We have someone in mind, but I can’t tell you yet,” he says."

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However NBC Los Angeles speculates that Brad Pitt may be the star that Bersford "can't tell" about:

"In addition to being among the giants of 20th-century architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright led a rather tumultuous love life, one that was punctuated by an axe-murder, which is to be the subject of a new film.Bruce Beresofrd ("Driving Miss Daisy") is set to develop and direct "Taliesin," a film named for the Wisconsin home he built for himself and his then married mistress, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

It was in 1914, three years after FLW and Martha Cheney moved into Taliesin, while Wight in Chicago on business, the tragedy struck. On Aug. 15 of that year, Julian Carlton, a servant Wright had hired only two months previously, set fire to the sprawling home and murdered seven people, including Cheney and her two kids, with an axe as the fire raged.“We have someone in mind [to play Wright], but I can’t tell you yet,” said Beresford, when asked about casting. 

Our knee-jerk I guess is that Brad Pitt would be the first choice. Not only is Pitt coming out of the best year of his career, he's also a huge architecture geek. Not only has he been a huge proponent of building "green homes," he also donated millions of dollars to erecting low-cost housing for victims of Katrina, and to celebrate his 43rd birthday,Angelina Jolie arranged for him a tour of Fallingwater, a house Wright designed outside Pittsburgh. Oh, Pitt's in his late 40's, as was Wright at the time of the fire-murder."

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Secret Design Studio saw the BBC TV documentary "Frank Lloyd Wright - murder, myth and modernism" which was released in 2005.  Unfortunately this production was fairly lurid and focused largely on the the events at Taliesin without much mention of the rest of FLW's achievements, or life.

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There is also a book, which Secret Design Studio, has not read, called "Death in a Prairie House", by William R. Drennan, 2007, and is described as part biography, part architectural analysis, and part true crime expose.  Judging from the axe murder weapon on the front cover Secret Design Studio suspected it was in a similar exploitative vein as "murder, myth and modernism", however it does have some positive reviews on Amazon.  It is also being sold in the Taliesin visitor's gift shop, so it must have the blessing of the Taliesin Preservation Inc.

The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) doesn't have any more details about Beresford's "Taliesin" apart from saying that it is in pre-production (hopefully doing lunch with Brad Pitt's manager), and a release date of 2013, although Secret Design Studio thinks that it would be good to release in 2014, 100 years after the tragedy. So keep an eye on IMDB for developments at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2131648/

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