It's no secret that the Weinstein Company is working hard to ignite the life of inventor Nikola Tesla at some point in the near-future. While we know that Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon and X-Men star Nicholas Hoult are already participating in director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's period drama The Current War, it's just been announced that another familiar face is looking to jump on-board — Spider-Man actor Tom Holland is currently in talks to play the assistant to Tesla (Hoult).
The Serbian-American electrical engineer and futurist is perhaps best known for his electrical discoveries in the late 19th century. Among many inventions, Tesla's most notable ones include the intricate development of the alternating-current, the rotating magnetic field and of course, the "Tesla coil" that's still used in radio technology today.
The story, based on true events, will be set in the late 1880s and revolve around the tense battle between Thomas Edison (Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (Shannon) in supplying electricity — one supports direct current (DC), while the other alternating current (AC).
Yet, where does Nikola Tesla come into all of this? How important will Nicholas Hoult's role in The Current War really be? Read on below for the true story behind Tesla's relationship with Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse ahead of more movie details:
Nikola Tesla's Fraught Working Relationship With Thomas Edison
Born on July 10, 1856, Nikola Tesla was a Serbian electrical engineer who emigrated to the United States in 1884 to work for Thomas Edison, a prolific American inventor who went on to develop a number of groundbreaking devices including the phonograph, the motion picture camera and the practical electric light bulb. During his time with Edison, Tesla tirelessly helped to redesign the scientist's motors and generators, which he miraculously managed to do in a matter of months.
A conflict reportedly arose when Tesla was refused his pay of $50,000 promised by Edison, who when asked to pay-up, allegedly joked:
"Tesla, you don't understand our American humor."
Promptly resigning, Nikola decided to pave his own way in the world of science in New York, setting up his own electric lighting company and laboratories. After receiving funding by a number of investors for the Tesla Electric Light Company, he was abandoned, left penniless and even forced to work as a ditch digger for $2 per day.
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However, by 1887, his scientific mind was back on track when he found new funding for his AC electrical system. After working to improve and develop new types of electric motors and generators, including an induction motor to run alternating current, he was able to patent some of his inventions and thus, come into some money. In the process, he caught the attention of another American engineer – George Westinghouse.
The War Of The Currents
At the time, George Westinghouse was actively looking for a way to supply the whole of America with long-distance power. The business man became obsessed with the fact that Tesla's work with currents could help him achieve this and in 1888, he purchased his patents for a large sum of money ($60,000).
With this, Tesla collided with Thomas Edison once more, who also had bold intentions of introducing his own direct-current system to the country. Thus, a so-called war of the currents formed — between alternating current systems (AC) and direct-current systems (DC). Yet, tactics soon turned dirty when Edison embarked on a negative press campaign against Tesla and Westinghouse to undermine all interest in their AC discoveries.
Essentially, what had started off as mild competition between two rival lighting systems soon escalated to something far more malicious. This is the very premise of The Current War.
By 1893, Westinghouse's engineer Benjamin Lamme developed the "Tesla Polyphase System" with Nikola. They won the prestigious bid to light the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago with alternating current, smashing Thomas Edison's General Electric out of the ballpark by over $1 million. An observer at the event relayed the scene:
"Within the room was suspended two hard-rubber plates covered with tin foil. These were about fifteen feet apart, and served as terminals of the wires leading from the transformers. When the current was turned on, the lamps or tubes, which had no wires connected to them, but lay on a table between the suspended plates, or which might be held in the hand in almost any part of the room, were made luminous. These were the same experiments and the same apparatus shown by Tesla in London about two years previous, "where they produced so much wonder and astonishment."
'I Was A Sorry Witness'
Months later and Tesla had essentially brought the war of "The War of the Currents" to an abrupt halt when he designed the first ever hydroelectric power plants in the US, using them to power Buffallo, New York. In a matter of years, the inventor's AC system went on to become the main power system of the 20th century and looking back at his dispute with Edison, he had this to say:
"If Edison had a needle to find in a haystack, he would proceed at once until he found the object of his search. I was a sorry witness of such doings, knowing that a little theory and calculations would have saved him 90% of his labor."
Ouch! We can only hope the Nicholas Hoult's Nikola Tesla in The Current War is as electrifying as his real-life counterpart. Or, let's face it, hopefully his performance is at least as good as David Bowie's interpretation in the highly-acclaimed movie The Prestige: