In 2012’s Looper, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a fictional mass murderer who takes out victims from the mob sent to the present from the future. Soon, rather than a sci-fi character, the actor will be playing an actual mass murderer who took his own life before he could be brought to justice. Gordon-Levitt has been cast as the infamous cult leader Jim Jones, who orchestrated the deaths of over 900 people in Guyana in 1978. The horrific event has since become known as the Jonestown Massacre.
THR reports that the film, White Nights, will star Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Jim Jones and Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass) as Deborah Layton, a survivor of Jones’ cult. The film will be a psychological thriller based on Layton’s 1998 memoir Seductive Poison. Anne Sewitsky (A Very British Scandal) is directing from a script by William Wheeler (Ray Donovan). Filming is set to begin this Spring.
Jim Jones, the infamous preacher Joseph Gordon-Levitt is playing, founded what would later become known as the Peoples Temple in Indianapolis in 1955. While at the time he was a Christian preacher who followed the teachings of Christian Socialism, Jones eventually went from worshipping God to rejecting traditional Christianity entirely and claiming that he was, in fact, God. In 1974 — concerned about the negative attention the Peoples Temple was receiving — Jones had a commune built in Guyana, which he named Jonestown.
Leaving the United States didn’t help Jones’ paranoia, however. When US Representative Leo Ryan and his delegation went to Jonestown to investigate human rights abuses, Jones’ followers murdered them. Soon afterward Jones had all 918 residents of Jonestown — including over 300 children — drink cyanide-laced Flavor-Aid. Almost all perished, including Jones, who was deemed to have committed suicide by gunshot to the head.
In fact the title of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s upcoming flick, White Nights, comes from a practice Jim Jones instituted as he became increasingly paranoid about the US military attacking Jonestown. The so-called “White Nights” were drills in which Jones would call everyone in the commune together over the loudspeaker with “Alert, alert, alert.” The followers were armed with rifles and crossbows.
It just so happens that Joseph Gordon-Levitt isn’t the only big name making a Jim Jones movie. Back in November news surfaced that Leonardo DiCaprio had been cast as the titular murderer in Jim Jones. This version is coming from MGM. At the time there was no word on director, though the script is being written by Scott Rosenberg (Venom).
There’s no release date yet for either White Nights or Jim Jones, but if the two films should happen to come out close to each other, Leonardo DiCaprio and/or Joseph Gordon-Levitt could find themselves facing the same kind of controversy Elijah Wood confronted last year. Wood plays FBI profiler Bill Hagmaier in 2021’s No Man of God, which came out around the same time as Chad Michael Murray’s Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman — both films about serial killer Ted Bundy. The coincidence led to a discussion about the glorification of serial killers in popular culture to the detriment of the victims, which led to a lot of social media shots fired at Wood.