Leo Lands on Planet Green
by Natalie Finn
Leonardo DiCaprio is taking one small step for an A-list celebrity, and one giant leap for the environment.
The card-carrying hybrid driver has partnered up with Discovery Communications to executive-produce a reality series chronicling the eco-friendly rebuild of Greensburg, Kansas, which was decimated by a fierce tornado in May.
The 13-part series will be for the Discovery Channel's latest offshoot, the 24/7 cable network Planet Green, which is scheduled to launch early next year, taking the place of Discovery Home in your local listings.
"This is at the center of what we want to do with Planet Green," Discovery Communications president and CEO David Zaslav said Friday at his network's Television Critics Association presentation in Beverly Hills. "This is not about a TV show and about a cable channel that reaches 50 million homes…we’re the number one non-fiction media company in the world, but we also want to make a difference."
It was reported in October that DiCaprio's production company, Appian Way, had a reality show in the works called E-topia that, inspired by the widespread damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, would follow a team of construction workers, urban planners and environmentalists as they gave a rundown town a top-to-bottom green makeover.
Sadly, the natural disaster in Greensburg on May 4 made the tight-knit farming community about 110 miles west of Wichita a prime candidate for the series' efforts. The tornado killed 10 and displaced nearly all of the rest of the town's 1,500 residents, leveling practically every house, business, hospital and school in the process.
Planet Network's new show will follow state and local officials in their quest to create an ecologically—and economically—sustainable locale and encourage the storm's victims to return to their homes.
Pilgrim Films & Television's Craig Piligian, who originally brought the now-untitled project to DiCaprio last year, will also serve as an executive producer.
DiCaprio, who hosted the ABC News special Planet Earth 2000 and has long been a champion of green causes, has also been invited to sit on the Planet Green Board of Advisers, along with leading advocacy groups such as the Nature Conservancy and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The Oscar-nominated actor was on hand to address the Live Earth crowd about reducing carbon emissions last weekend at Giants Stadium, and he was the chosen celeb who got to joke with An Inconvenient Truth guru Al Gore at the Academy Awards about the possibilities for another presidential run in 2008.
And while DiCaprio is busy putting his name and money to good use, he'll be doing his best to beautify a few studios' box office returns, as well.
Up next he stars in the period drama Revolutionary Road along with Kate Winslet, playing one half of a disenchanted suburban couple that picks up and moves to France to pursue their bohemian ideals. The film, based on the Richard Yates novel, is slated for a December 2008 release.
DiCaprio is also set to costar with Russell Crowe in the Ridley Scott-directed CIA thriller Body of Lies, which is expected to start shooting this fall.