All the while that producer Marc Fiore was making pricey pay-or-play deals and holding press conferences in New York and Cannes to trumpet John Travolta, Al Pacino, Lindsay Lohan and Joe Pesci taking part in Gotti: In The Shadow Of My Father, there were big questions on whether Fiore really had the cash to make the movie. It has become clear in the last two weeks that he does not; I’m told that the film is in play and that without a new backer, the mob movie could sleep with the fishes. Conversations are going on right now to figure out new funding and to bring down the budget.
What happened? I’m told that Fiore’s major backer, a New York-based construction mogul named Fay Devlin, recently began questioning what he had gotten himself into after Fiore paid high prices to sign talent to pay-or-play deals. Already more than $10 million has been spent, and I’ve heard they’re on the hook to pay Travolta $10 million to play John Gotti Sr, Pacino $7 million, co-writer/director Barry Levinson more than $4 million, co-writer James Toback $1 million, and Ben Foster low seven figures to play Gotti Jr. Those are high prices for an indie film. A pay-or-play deal from an indie company isn’t the same as one at a studio, but talent and reps had no reason to be unduly concerned because Fiore made escrow payments on time and was so confident his backers would write the check that foreign sales agents at Summit didn’t pre-sell overseas territories after Levinson went to Cannes to hawk the film. Things went awry only recently when timed payments to several of the stars didn’t materialize. An expected early 2012 start date now seems unlikely.
Here’s the irony: Despite the exit of original director Nick Cassavetes a week after an ill-advised press conference, and despite a lawsuit by Pesci, I’m told by reliable sources the script that was completely overhauled by Levinson and Toback is now quite good; there is now a compelling father-and-son story set in the backdrop of an iconic organized crime family in New York. New backers would probably ask the talent to rework deals, but from Levinson on down, they all really want to make the film. Whether Fiore is still calling the shots in a reconfigured Gotti film remains to be seen. A spokesman declined comment on the funding but said the film is still on track to be released in late 2012, and he also said that Fiore Films is anticipating the structure of the film will stay intact. I don’t believe that is the case at this moment.
EXCLUSIVE: Before Al Pacino and director Barry Levinson re-team for Gotti: Three Generations, the duo will first reunite on an adaptation of the Philip Roth novel The Humbling, which has been set for a fall start and will be financed by Avi Lerner’s Millennium Films/Nu Image. It is just the latest in a period of extreme productivity for Levinson, some of it directly attributable to the acclaim he got for directing Pacino’s Emmy-winning turn as Jack Kevorkian in HBO’s You Don’t Know Jack.
The Humbling revolves around Simon Axler (Pacino), a famous stage actor in decline who is revived when he retires to his upstate New York farmhouse and takes up with a much younger woman. It has a script by Buck Henry, Michal Zebede and Levinson. Levinson will be looking to quickly cast the young female lead, the actor’s agent, and several other eccentric characters you would expect in a Roth novel. Levinson committed to this movie after completing production on the low-budget eco-horror film The Bay, which he shot on hand-held cameras and which Lionsgate will release. He just spent time at the Cannes Film Festival to help stir interest in the offshore rights of the Gotti movie; and he’s right now in China, heading the jury at the Shanghai Film Festival.
I caught up with Levinson at Cannes, where he was uneasy about the idea of having to hawk a film (Gotti) that he and his Bugsy co-writer James Toback are giving a page one rewrite. He was completely sparked to be shooting a variety of films, from horror to documentaries (he helmed for ESPN’s 30 for 30 series The Band That Wouldn’t Die). But industry players who passed by us in the Majestic Hotel seemed intrigued at his chance to create a major new Mafia movie, and one prominent figure even volunteered to join a preliminary cast that includes John Travolta (Gotti Sr.), Joe Pesci and Pacino, whom Levinson recruited. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: At a time when organized crime films are back in vogue, Relativity Media’s Ryan Kavanaugh is wetting his beak. He’s acquired Ness/Capone, a Grant Pierce Myers script that made the 2010 Black Script and puts a new spin on the epic battle between Eliot Ness and Al Capone during the Prohibition Era 1920s. That battle was famously chronicled in the Brian DePalma-directed movie based on the TV series The Untouchables. Myers went back to the history books and came away with a much different version of Ness. While Kevin Costner played him as an incorruptible married choirboy who had to be taught to meet the mob on its own crooked terms, Ness/Capone’s Ness is a skirt-chasing 26-year old publicity hound who seemed to get an adrenaline charge out of courting danger, kicking in doors, smashing moonshine stores and rubbing it in the noses of Capone and other mobsters. He paraded confiscated bootleg trucks past Capone’s hotel, calling Capone in advance to suggest he look out the window. Deals are still being worked out, but the film will be produced by Gotham Group’s Ellen Goldsmith-Vein and Jeremy Bell along with Hollywood Gang’s Gianni Nunnari and Virgin Produced’s Jason Felts and Rene Rigal.
This puts Relativity Media in another potential pic race (it has already gone to the mattresses against Universal over rival Snow White films). Warner Bros has its own Capone project, the Walon Green-scripted Cicero, an origin story. I’ve reported that the project has interest from David Yates when he resurfaces from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, his fourth and final Potter pic. Warner Bros also is going gangbusters on Gangster Squad, the Ruben Fleischer-directed pic that has Sean Penn negotiating to play L.A. mobster Mickey Cohen, and Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin as the cops who try to bring him down. Read More »
Fiore Films made the announcements today at a NYC press conference attended by John Gotti Jr as well as the already cast John Travolta and already attached director Nick Cassavetes. The biopic, titled Gotti: Three Generations, begins shooting in October with an eye to a late 2012 release. Until now, the film had no financier, but today the independent production company announced it will finance the film itself, but declined to say how much it will budget. Producer Marc Fiore says that Joe Pesci has now joined the cast as John Gotti Sr’s deputy Angelo Ruggiero, and Lindsay Lohan (newly with ICM) is in talks for a role. The production will cast Gotti Jr “within the next week or two,” Fiore says. This is the first film about the Dapper Don being made with the cooperation of his son and will show the infamous mobster as “an iconic figure in American history,” says Fiore. But Cassavetes says that he’ll show Gotti Sr’s “warts.” Gotti Jr says the script shows his dad was “a man’s man” who “paid for every sin he may or may not have committed.” Unlike other projects that told the family’s story “from a journalistic or government viewpoint,” Gotti Jr says this biopic will show that “Everybody’s a victim. … There a lot of ups and downs. A lot of tears. And a lot of happiness.” Travolta is playing the one-time Gambino crime family boss who was convicted in 1992 of five murders, loan sharking, illegal gambling, obstruction of justice, bribery and tax evasion. Travolta called this ”probably the most interesting untold story in this country,” adding that Gotti Sr was “filled with dichotomies.” Travolta claims Lohan ”happens to be a very big fan of mine,” and added, ”I’ve always thought she was gorgeous and talented and filled with a lot of depth.” Read More »
Al Pacino & Joe Pesci Circling Scorsese/De Niro Mob Movie
EXCLUSIVE: It’s turning out to be an interesting week for projects based on organized crime. Just … Read More »