Discovery Communications has picked up The Five Families, a scripted series from Irwin Winkler and Nicholas Pileggi (Goodfellas). Written by Pileggi, the project is based on the real figures and actual events in the history of the famed five organized crime families of New York: Gambino, Genovese, Lucchese, Bonanno and Colombo. Discovery will produce Five Families, which will debut on one or more of the company’s U.S. and international networks.
Doing something he says he has never done in his entire career, director Martin Scorsese has come to Cannes to personally sell a film to foreign buyers. But it is not just any film but rather a passion project called Silence he has been hoping to bring to the screen for 23 years. The adaptation of Shusaku Endo’s novel about Jesuits and the dawn of Christianity in 17th Century Japan is not the kind of thing studios are rushing to make but Scorsese, who actually toyed with becoming a priest at one time, is determined to make it.
Today Emmett/Furla Productions threw a reception with Scorsese on the Johnny Walker And Sons Voyager Yacht where the Oscar-winning film icon basically pitched his wares. When I sat down to speak with him he said he was starting to lose his voice after two days in Cannes meeting buyers and convincing them that he was really going to finally roll cameras on the movie he has had in development longer than any other. “I think this is the first time I have done this, to sell a movie, but it’s a special picture. I have been working on it since 1989. Everytime it started to move away from me I went back to try to get it. It’s one I really want to make and I …
Winkler Films has optioned rights to the novel The Empty Glass, written by J. I. Baker, who will also adapt the screenplay. Irwin Winkler and David Winkler are producing a film that weaves together historical events with infamous conspiracy theories regarding Marilyn Monroe’s untimely death. The paranoid thriller is narrated by the young coroner who is among the first on the scene at Monroe’s bungalow when the actress is reported dead, and how his quest for the truth about her death puts his own life at risk. “The Empty Glass reads like a Billy Wilder screenplay,” said David Winkler. “It’s got suspense, action and dramatic plot turns that will appeal to great directors, and rich dialogue that will attract great actors. We knew immediately that nobody could adapt the book better than the author himself, Jim Baker.”
New York, NY – April 16, 2012 – The Tribeca Film Festival (TFF), presented by founding partner American Express, today announced its jurors – a diverse group of 39 individuals, including award-winning filmmakers, writers and producers, acclaimed actors, respected critics and global business leaders. Irwin Winkler has been named President of the Jury. The Jury will be divided among the six competitive Festival categories and will announce the winning films, filmmakers and actors in those categories at the TFF Awards Night ceremony, hosted by Whoopi Goldberg on April 26, which will stream live on TribecaFilm.com. The 2012 Festival runs from April 18 –29.
EXCLUSIVE: After re-starting one Robert Ludlum novel franchise with The Bourne Legacy, Universal Pictures is looking to get in gear with The Sigma Protocol, the last thriller Ludlum wrote before he passed away. The studio has set Irwin Winkler and Jose Ruisanchez to write the script. Winkler will produce with Captivate Entertainment’s Jeffrey Weiner and Ben Smith.
The novel focuses on a man who, while vacationing in Switzerland, runs into an old friend. He watches as the guy turns homicidal and guns down six people. The vacationer then gets plunged into a conspiracy and runs for his life. A female federal agent is following the clues, and might be the ordinary guy’s only hope of survival from a ruthless assassin.
“What we are really hoping to do is create a franchise, built around this ordinary guy who gets caught up in international intrigue, and who teams with this operative who is declared a rogue by the CIA,” said Winkler. “Unlike Bourne, who is a trained assassin, this is an innocent guy traveling in Europe who gets in way over his head. And it has all the great Ludlum intrigue.”
Universal has been trying to make a movie out of Sigma Protocol since 2002. At one time, the studio had Antoine Fuqua attached, and later, Iron Man scribes Art Marcum and Matt Holloway took cracks at the novel. Winkler and his partner have gone back to the book. They got the job after writing a …
EXCLUSIVE: AMC’s 1960s mad men may be soon joined by some goodfellas from the same era. The cable network, home of such acclaimed series as Mad Men and Breaking Bad, has put in development a series version of one of the most praised movies of all time, the 1990 Martin Scorsese mob classic Goodfellas. Nicholas Pileggi, who wrote the movie based on his non-fiction book Wiseguy, is on board to co-write the TV series adaptation with TV writer-producer Jorge Zamacona (Homicide: Life On The Street). The two will executive produce with the film’s producer Irwin Winkler and his son David. Warner Horizon Television, the cable TV production sibling of Warner Bros, which distributed Scorsese’s film, is producing the series.
The idea of turning Goodfellas into a series with Pileggi and Irwin Winkler on board has been percolating for a while. My colleague Mike Fleming wrote first about it in September 2010. The movie Goodfellas, which Pileggi co-wrote with Scorsese, stars Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci and follows the rise and fall of the Lucchese crime family associate Henry Hill (Liotta) and his friends from 1955 to 1980. It was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture and director, and won one, for best supporting actor (Pesci). …
EXCLUSIVE: Imagine if you’d written a 1974 autobiographical masterpiece of a screenplay about compulsive gambling directed by Karel Reisz and starring James Caan. Imagine also if you just found out it was being remade by writer William Monahan, director Marty Scorsese, and actor Leonardo DiCaprio and no one told you. What is most incredible, and also despicable, is that neither the original studio Paramount nor the original producers Irwin Winkler and Bob Chartoff bothered to reveal they were going back to Toback’s creative well without him. On Saturday, Toback phoned me and asked if he could write about this surreal experience for Deadline Hollywood. Here in its entirety is his sadness and anger mixed with his trademark humor, against the backdrop of the late, great, and heady filmmaking days of that decade:
Close to 3 AM on this past Friday I got my daily call from my friend and LA housemate, Brett Ratner. I was at my desk working on my 22nd revision of the John DeLorean script I was hired by Reliance and Ratner to write with Ratner directing and the legendary Bob Evans producing.
“What are you doing?” Brett asked.
“What do you think?” I said. “This is by far the toughest script to get right of any I’ve written in 35 years.”
“What about The Gambler?”
“That was lightning fast and easy,” I said. “Of course, it was my own story.”
“That’s not what I meant,” he said. “Did you read Nikki Finke?”
“Always,” I said.
“What are you getting at?” I asked.
“She just reported that DiCaprio and Scorsese are remaking The Gambler at Paramount.”
“Not my Gambler!” I said. “That’s not possible! No one said a word to me!”
“Who owns it?” Ratner asked.
“I guess they didn’t have to.”
“Legally, I guess you’re right,” I said.
“Maybe that’s all anyone gives a fuck about: whether something is legal.”
The film in question, The Gambler, was financed and distributed by Paramount in 1974 and directed by the late Karel Reisz. It was derived without a syllable of alteration from the final draft of my blatantly autobiographical original screenplay and starred James Caan as Axel Freed, a City College of NY literature Lecturer whose addiction to gambling overrides every other aspect of his richly diverse life. It might seem odd that my initial response to the news of the purported remake would be something south of “flattered and honored,” but the truth is that my main feeling was one of disbelief that I was learning of these plans at the same time and in the same fashion as any of the regular devoted readers of this column. It struck me as particularly odd since I have been a friend and unlimited admirer of Leonardo’s since our initial encounter in 1994 when we were, in fact, all set to close a deal on his playing the lead in Harvard Man – a deal sabotaged only by Bob Shaye’s overriding the greenlight which Mike DeLuca had conveyed to Jeff Berg and Jay Moloney. Equally odd was not hearing anything from Irwin Winkler who, I was soon to learn, is to be the producer on this projected new version as he was on the original. Perhaps my inability to view this “tribute” as primarily flattering was additionally influenced by a recent and infinitely more felicitous experience which involved remarkably similar circumstances. My movie, Fingers, was remade as a Cesar prize-sweeping film, The Beat That My Heart Skipped by Jacques Audiard, the great French filmmaker who called me from Paris and then flew to New York to discuss Fingers in great detail before redoing it, apparently not sharing the current group’s quaint — if indeed entirely legal –notion that as long as they “own” something — even a movie — they are fully entitled to do whatever they wish to it without even bothering to consult its creator.
Of course, the French have always had an entirely different set of laws and values governing intellectual property based on the poignant notion that a writer’s work cannot be tampered with by anyone even including someone who paid money to take ownership of it. This current experience conjures up memories of a banker who owned Harvard Man and once said to me: “To you this is a movie. To me this is a pair of shoes. My pair of shoes. And I will do whatever I like with it.”
I would like to offer an unexpurgated chronology of the history of The Gambler since the movie seems, after 37 years, to have ignited the energies of all these busy and important people. So here it is, covering all incidents — in the words of Winston Churchill — “from erection to resurrection.”
After graduating from Harvard in 1966 I taught literature and writing in a radical new program at CCNY whose additional faculty included Joseph Heller, John Hawks, William Burroughs, Donald Barthelme, Adrienne Rich, Mark Mirsky and Israel Horovitz. I also wrote articles and criticism for Esquire, Harpers, The Times, The Voice and other publications. Most of all, I gambled — recklessly, obsessively and secretly. It was a rich, exciting double life with heavy doses of sexual adventurism thrown in for good measure. Inspired by the life and work of my literary idol, Dostoyevsky, I embarked on the writing of The Gambler intended originally as a novel. Half way in, it became clear to me that I was seeing and hearing the “novel” as a movie and I abruptly decided to turn it into one. When I hit full stride I felt as if I were a recording secretary, simply putting down on paper dialogue and images I heard and saw as if they were not sounds and pictures at all but rather real life action existing in my brain.
When I finished the script
A&E has put in development Overload, a female detective drama from writer John E. Pogue and film producer Irwin Winkler (the Rocky franchise). This marks the first TV sale for Winkler Films under the first-look TV deal the company signed with Sony Pictures TV last summer. Overload centers on a female detective blessed and cursed with hyper-acute senses who balances her work and personal life in Boston. Pogue is executive producing with Irwin Winkler, his son David Winkler and Winkler Films president Jill Cutler. On the film side, Irwin Winkler most recently served as a producer on The Mechanic. All of A&E’s scripted series since the network re-entered the scripted arena 3 years ago have been male-centered: The Cleaner, The Beast, The Glades and the upcoming Breakout Kings. Its two current pilots, Longmire and Big Mike, which are now casting, also have male leads. But the network has ordered a pilot centered on a female character before, The Quickening, which was about a bi-polar detective.
EXCLUSIVE: CBS Films has made its first acquisition of a finished film, buying U.S. distribution rights to The Mechanic, the remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson film that stars Jason Staham as a hitman who trains an apprentice who has a connection to one of his mentor’s victims. Simon West directed and Ben Foster and Donald Sutherland also star.
The film was made by Millennium Films, which also financed the $80 million Sly Stallone-directed actioner The Expendables, being released Friday by Lionsgate. That film also has Staham in its action hero ensemble. Richard Wenk and Lewis John Carlino scripted The Mechanic.
The remake was produced by Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff—who produced the original—along with David Winkler, William Chartoff and Rene Besson. The Millennium team of Avi Lerner, Danny Dimbort, Trevor Short, Boaz Davidson and Joe Gatta are executive producers.
“The original was a big success, especially overseas where it has had a long life,” Winkler said. “MGM had the rights but nobody really saw it as the character study that we did, until Avi Lerner came in and financed it. A lot of independent companies were interested after we held a test screening, but I worked with CBS’s Amy Baer while she was at Columbia, and we trust each other. CBS needed a film, they held a research screening on their own dime that did even better than the first time, and …