Anthropologist Richard Leakey asks for less sex and violence in a film about his life, starring Brad Pitt

Aislinn Laing

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Leakey pittBrad Pitt photo courtesy of Sunmedia Archive. Richard Leaky photo by Tony Karumba, AFP

An African conservationist has asked Angelina Jolie to tone down the sex and violence in a film she is making about him, fearing he will not be able to watch it with his grandchildren.

Richard Leakey, the palaeoanthropologist known for his discoveries of important hominid fossils in East Africa, said he feared that his request might deter Jolie’s husband, Brad Pitt, from playing him, as planned.

I have a reputation for having had a fairly full life, but not nearly as full as that,” Leakey said, referring to the first version of Jolie’s script.

Brad may not like the new script, he was the one having a good time. He might not like the new role – that doesn’t have as much action.”

Leakey, 70, has led a varied life, from finding fame with his fossil-hunting expeditions that discovered remains of some of the earliest humans, to fighting a war on elephant poaching and narrowly escaping death in a plane crash.

The second of three sons born to palaeoanthropologists Louis and Mary Leakey in colonial Kenya, he entered the family trade at 16 and in the Seventies appeared on the cover of Time magazine. His discovery of KNM-ER 1470, a 1.9?million-year-old skull belonging to Homo rudolfensis, in particular, made him world-renowned.

He was among the first conservationists to raise global awareness about the scourge of elephant poaching in East Africa in the Eighties and started the movement to burn ivory stockpiles that were regularly stolen and sold by corrupt wildlife or government officials.

He is twice married, has had two kidney transplants and one liver transplant and lost both legs below the knee in the light aircraft crash in 1993. There were suspicions that sabotage might have been involved in the crash, because of Leakey’s tireless campaigning against corruption and poaching, but foul play was never proven.

Two years later, he formed his own political party and won a seat in parliament where he continued his conservation campaign. In 1999, international donors forced President Gideon Moi to give him a government post until he resigned in 2001. But in April, Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta asked him to return and run the Kenya Wildlife Service, tackling poaching.

Leakey said he hoped that a film about his life, combined with the cachet of having it directed by Jolie, would help boost tourism, which has suffered from fears of terrorist attacks by al-Shabaab, and help with conservation in Kenya, just as Out of Africa did in the Eighties. Plans for Jolie’s film were announced last year, but it appeared that the prohibitive costs of making it in South Africa might kill the project, until the Kenyan government stepped in and created financial incentives to make it more affordable.

We will make the film and it will be made in Kenya – for sure,” Leakey said. “The government told the treasury to make it happen and it is. Kenya needs this film, it will be a double benefit for us.”