Joe Pesci has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles against Fiore Films, the producer of Gotti: In the Shadow of My Father, the latest hiccup in the making of the drama about the son of Mafia boss John Gotti Sr. In the suit, filed Wednesday, Pesci claims he was offered the role of Gotti Sr right-hand man Angelo Ruggiero and a $3 million payday, but after Fiore Films promoted the movie with him in the part and the actor gained 30 pounds for the role, it offered Pesci $1 million and a lesser role. “Defendant has no intention of paying (Pesci) $3 million or having him portray Ruggiero in the film,” the lawsuit claims. “Rather, plaintiff secretly planned to use (Pesci’s) name and likeness to promote the film and then to later concoct some pretext for terminating the contract so as to avoid paying plaintiff anything for the substantial publicity and ‘buzz’ that was generated.” The Associated Press reported that Fiore CEO Marc Fiore rejected the allegations, saying, “Before we had a deal, Mr. Pesci walked away.” John Travolta, Al Pacino and Kelly Preston already are aboard the film, which originally had Nick Cassavetes helming before he departed and was replaced by Barry Levinson. Production is slated to begin Jan. 3.
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.
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.”