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AFM: Sean Penn To Direct ‘The Comedian’ With Robert De Niro, Kristen Wiig

By | Thursday October 27, 2011 @ 9:36am PDT
Mike Fleming

Sean Penn will direct The Comedian, a film that will star Robert De Niro and Kristen Wiig. FilmNation will sell international territories at next week’s AFM. Production is expected to begin next spring. The script was written by Art Linson and Jeffrey Ross, and Linson will produce with John Linson, Jon Kilik and DeNiro.

De Niro will play Jackie Burke, a raging comic past his prime who clings to any recognition that comes from his days as a beloved TV character as he tries to reignite his stagnant career. Sentenced to community service for hitting a heckler in the head with a microphone, the comic meets Harmony, a dazzling and defiant redhead who turns his life sideways. De Niro, of course, starred in The King of Comedy. Wiig is coming off the summer hit Bridesmaids, which she co-wrote. CAA is shopping domestic rights.

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Stephen Gaghan Focuses On Smuggling Of Cocaine And Humans For Next Two Films

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Stephen Gaghan has set up his next two directing projects, one covering the smuggling of cocaine from Mexico, the other human cargo from China. Gaghan, who last directed Syriana, has made a deal with Warner Bros for an untitled Cartel Project; and he has made a deal with Flashlight Pictures to direct an independent drama based on the book The Snakehead: An Epic Tale Of The Chinatown Underworld And The American Dream.

The latter is the title of a book by New Yorker writer Patrick Keefe; it will be Keefe who writes the script for the Cartel project at Warner Bros. Gaghan’s Unsupervised Shingle is producing the Cartel project along with Kevin McCormick’s Langley Park. The Warner Bros film will be partly based on Richard Marosi’s four-part series published in the Los Angeles Times this summer, about how an extensive DEA wiretap operation cracked a variety of smuggling rings transporting tons of cocaine from Sinaloa, Mexico, into Los Angeles and then across the country. Those methods included loading cocaine into everything from cars with elaborate hidden compartments to small airplanes and tractor trailers covered by pallets of frozen chicken. The wiretaps elicited highly personal information on smugglers, including one who would not make a move without the advice of a psychic. It’s the second project McCormick has set up from journalistic sources; Warner Bros is in production with the Ruben Fleischer-directed Gangster Squad with Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin … Read More »

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Spoof: Clinton Foundation Celebrity Division

This Funny Or Die video from writer-director Josh Greenbaum explains why non-liberal America hates Hollywood. Featuring Matt Damon, Sean Penn, Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Jack Black, and Kevin Spacey. Wait for the scene with Bill:

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Robert Downey Jr. Asks Hollywood To ‘Forgive’ Mel Gibson While Accepting American Cinematheque Award

Pete Hammond

The American Cinematheque tribute to Robert Downey Jr last night held might have been unthinkable just a few years ago when the actor was hopelessly hooked on drugs, destroying his career and winding up in prison. But if there is anything Hollywood loves, it is redemption –  and a second (or third or fourth) chance. That’s something Downey received and ran with largely thanks to his wife Susan who put him on the right course and hasn’t let him fall off since. With a hot career thanks to a second Oscar nomination for Tropic Thunder and blockbuster franchises like Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes, Downey not only turned around his career, he fixed his life and now he’s reaping the rewards as evidenced by the great turnout on Friday night at the Beverly Hilton. But the evening took a serious turn when Downey made an impassioned plea to Hollywood to “forgive” his friend Mel Gibson who was on hand to present him with the award. “Unless you are without sin – and if you are, you are in the wrong [expletive] industry, you should forgive him and let him work,” Downey said to much applause.

The undisputed highlight of the night came when previously unannounced guest Mel Gibson appeared.  Gibson and Downey Jr co-starred in Air America and Gibson’s unwavering support of Downey during his darkest hours was well-documented at the time. Gibson brought up Downey to accept the award to a standing ovation and said, “He taught me many things and I will use the ‘C’ word, courage. There’s nothing so much wrong with him. Of course you have to worry about the guy making the judgement here. He’s a good dude with a good heart.”

“This is my fuckin’ time,” Downey said. “Mel and I have the same lawyer, same publicist and same shrink. I couldn’t get hired and he cast me. He said if I accepted responsibility – he called it hugging the cactus – long enough, my life would take meaning. And if he helped me, I would help the next guy. But it was not reasonable to assume the next guy would be him.” Downey then went to on to hug Gibson and urge people to let Mel continue his career without shame.

It was a star-studded event, to be sure. Jack Black called Downey a “stone cold stud muffin” while Michael Douglas (looking great) said working with Robert Downey Jr on The Wonder Boys was “something special. Read More »

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Ambyr Childers Signs With WME, Lands ‘Gangster Squad’

Mike Fleming

Ambyr ChildersAmbyr Childers, who played the daughter of the faith founder (Philip Seymour Hoffman) in Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film for Megan Ellison’s Annapurna and The Weinstein Company, has landed a key role in Gangster Squad, the Ruben Fleischer-directed period drama for Warner Bros. The film stars Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin. Childers just signed with WME and remains managed by McKeon-Myones Management.

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Weinstein Company Acquires Sean Penn Drama ‘This Must Be The Place’

By | Wednesday September 21, 2011 @ 12:36pm PDT
Mike Fleming

BREAKING: In the culmination of talks that go back to the Cannes Film Festival last May, The Weinstein Company acquired North American distribution rights to This Must Be the Place, the Paolo Sorrentino-directed drama that stars Sean Penn as a retired rock star who comes out of seclusion to continue the hunt for the ex-Nazi war criminal who humiliated his father, who has just died. The film is produced by Lucky Red, Indigo Film and Medusa Film. It was an official selection at Cannes and there was distributor interest in the film for an awards season release for the performance by Penn, who as an aging rock star looks a lot like The Cure’s Robert Smith. At this point, it’s going to be too late to launch the film for this year’s Oscar race, particularly because TWC has other films that are expected to be in the Oscar hunt, including The Artist and the Meryl Streep-starrer Iron Lady. So expect to see This Must Be the Place in 2012. Nicola Guiliano and Francesca Cima produced with Andrea Occhipinti. UTA Independent Film Group repped the film and made the deal with TWC COO David Glasser. “Sorrentino is a true auteur,” Harvey Weinstein said in a statement. “We were gripped by his film and are excited to share it with American audiences. Sean proves once again that he is one of the finest actors of our time.”

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Giovanni Ribisi Joins Warner Bros’ ‘The Gangster Squad’

EXCLUSIVE: Giovanni Ribisi has landed a co-starring role in Warner Bros’ The Gangster Squad, the period crime drama Ruben Fleischer is directing that stars Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen, and Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin as members of the elite cop squad that are after him in 1949 Los Angeles. Anthony Mackie and Michael Pena also are aboard. Will Beall wrote the script. Langley Park Pictures and Lin Pictures are producing. Ribisi, repped by CAA and Management 360, will play Conway Keeler, a cop in the group who is a master of electronics and wires. He is currently shooting Universal’s Ted and next appears in FilmDistrict’s The Rum Diary opposite Johnny Depp.

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FilmDistrict Near U.S. Distribution Deal For Ryan Gosling-Nic Refn ‘Only God Forgives’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: In a low-seven-figure minimum guarantee deal, FilmDistrict has acquired U.S. rights to Only God Forgives, a drama that will reteam Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn with Ryan Gosling. Several distributors were in the mix, but FilmDistrict’s Peter Schlessel had an edge because Refn was pleased with the way FilmDistrict’s Bob Berney has set up the marketing for Drive. That film, which stars Gosling as a stunt driver who moonlights as the wheel man for a heist crew, played the Cannes Film Festival and drew raves. It will be released Sept. 16. Funded by Wild Bunch, Only God Forgives will shoot in late summer in Thailand, with Gosling playing a guy on the run from British police. He runs a Thai boxing club in Bangkok that is a front for a drug-smuggling operation. He winds up getting in the ring for a shot at redemption. Buyers this week read a script and started making offers this week. Gosling is next starring for his Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance in A Place Beyond the Pines and he’s also starring with Sean Penn, Josh Brolin and Anthony Mackie in the Ruben Fleischer-directed Gangster Squad for Warner Bros. He’s also set to star for Refn in a remake of Logan’s Run at Warner Bros, where he’ll next be seen starring with Steve Carell and Julianne Moore in Crazy, Stupid, Love.

It is another … Read More »

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Fox Searchlight’s ‘Tree Of Life’ Release Branches Out To UK

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: After opening Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life in the U.S., Fox Searchlight presidents Nancy Utley and Stephen Gilula have acquired the U.K. rights to the film from Bill Pohlad’s River Road Entertainment, which financed the film. They’ve dated the film for July 8 opening in the U.K. The film, which stars Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain, opened right after it won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Its four screen average of $93,230 per theater beat Searchlight’s launch of Black Swan. The film has added eight markets and will add another 12 this week to a total of 22.

“We knew this was an amazing film from the moment we saw it,” Gilula and Utley said. Pohlad added: “Fox Searchlight has been an extraordinary partner distributing our film in the United States, so we’re thrilled to have them release The Tree of Life in the United Kingdom, allowing international audiences to experience Terry’s beautiful and affecting masterpiece.” Pohlad produced the film with Sarah Green, Pitt, Dede Gardner and Grant Hill.

I saw the film at its Cannes premiere, where I think I actually glimpsed Malick as he took in the cheers. Much like Pohlad said in an interview we did about the long road to bring that film to the screen, it is one of those movies where you can’t help but factor your own baggage from your upbringing and your experience of raising your own … Read More »

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No ‘Idolmaker’ For Ryan Gosling

Mike Fleming

Here’s how fast things move in Hollywood. At Cannes, I got my confirmations and revealed that Ryan Gosling would direct and star in MGM’s remake of The Idolmaker. Now, a couple weeks later, I get to report that he’s had to back out of the picture, at least for now. He just informed the studio he would be too busy. He’s in pre-production on A Place Beyond the Pines, which reteams him with Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance, and then Gosling moves immediately into the Ruben Fleischer-directed Gangster Squad, starring with Sean Penn and Josh Brolin in the period crime drama for Warner Bros. MGM is convinced that Idolmaker is a plum project and the studio and will continue developing the picture. If Gosling is available, they will revisit it down the line. It is fun to watch Gosling’s transformation from darling of the independent film set to arguably the most coveted young leading man for studio films. After turning down lead roles in recent years I’ve heard included Superman, Jack Ryan, Akira and The Lone Ranger, Gosling is suddenly giving the studios a chance. He impressed the Cannes set with the Nicolas Refn-directed Drive, and Warner Bros is offering him everything after testing Crazy, Stupid, Love, with the studio getting Gosling to reteam with Refn in a remake of Logan’s Run. Read More »

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CANNES: Sean Goes Glam Rock, Uma Leaves Town, Sarkozy Film Sold To U.S.

By | Friday May 20, 2011 @ 6:14pm PDT
Pete Hammond

Sean Penn looked like he just rolled out of bed at the 11 AM press conference following the media screening of his second competition film of the week, This Must Be The Place, the first English-language film from Italian director Paolo Sorrentino ( Il Divo). He probably did, considering I spotted him having a great time in the wee hours at the Eden Roc afterparty following the big Cinema Against AIDS event at Hotel Du Cap Thursday night. These Cannes hours can be rough. He did well enough, though, trying to explain what drew him to Sorrentino’s entertaining if quirky but oddly touching story of a washed-up-at-age-50 rock star from the 1980s named Cheyenne who suffers from depression and malaise until he gets a chance at renewal upholding his late father’s honor. Early reviews I’ve read on the film range from “transformative” to “embarrassing” — in other words, mixed — with general consensus that David Byrne’s songs are keepers. Also, Penn’s go-for-broke performance, a risky and engaging and right-on-the-nose turn, is one for the ages even if you don’t personally think this movie must be the place to be. Read More »

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CANNES: Elizabeth Taylor Remembered As amFAR Sets New Record

Pete Hammond

The late Elizabeth Taylor was fondly remembered during a tribute Thursday night at the ultra-glamorous  annual amFAR Cinema Against AIDS event (now in its 18th year) at Hotel Du Cap. The event co-chaired by Kenneth Cole and Harvey Weinstein broke all records, bringing in a haul of more than $10 million after an auction that also saw record prices. In clips from movies like Cleopatra and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, along with footage from her work for the organization in which she was the founding international chairman and host of the first event in 1993  Cole saluted Taylor as someone who “spoke up when others wouldn’t and said things when others can’t. I hope this will always be part of her legacy.” Weinstein added, “It was an honor to work beside her and it was an honor to watch her movies.”

Continuing the Taylor theme of the evening, two “Elizabeth” items went for big bucks in the annual auction that is always a part of this glitzy dinner, thrown near the end of each Cannes Film Festival since ’93. A limited-edition Herb Ritts photo of Taylor taken in Malibu in 1991 fetched a whopping $150,000, while an Andy Warhol dated lithograph of Liz circa 1964 fetched $400,000.

Among the stars taking part in the evening and auction were Janet Jackson, Brooke Shields, Freida Pinto, Kanye West, Rosario Dawson, Naomi Campbell, Gwen Stefani, Gavin Rossdale, Patrick Dempsey, Milla Jovovich (who opened the proceedings with a sultry “I Wanna Be Loved By You”), Jane Fonda, Goldie Hawn and Sean Penn. Penn, bringing up the rear, got big laughs demanding women abstain from sex unless their men cough up $10,000 apiece in order to break the record amount for the fundraiser. Twenty-one of them did just that. Boy George performed a couple of songs, too. Among those in the crowd were three Cannes jury members including president Robert De Niro, Uma Thurman (who also participated in the auction) and Jude Law, along with Melancholia star Kirsten Dunst, who looked happy not to have Lars von Trier as her date. Read More »

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CANNES: Q&A With Bill Pohlad, Producer And Financier Of Terrence Malick’s ‘The Tree Of Life’

Mike Fleming

What a difference a year makes. On the eve of 2010 Cannes, Bill Pohlad’s plan to build Apparition into a powerhouse specialty film distributor was dashed by Bob Berney’s stunning decision to take an out in his contract, just as Pohlad and the Apparition team were boarding flights to Nice. A year later, Pohlad is back not as distributor, but producer and financier of  The Tree of Life, the Fox Searchlight/River Road film that is hottest ticket on the Croisette. Here, Pohlad addresses his experiences at Apparition and collaborating with Terrence Malick, and the increasing role that high net worth individuals play in empowering prestige filmmakers to realize their visions.

DEADLINE: Bob Berney’s exit prompted you to shutter Apparition. Will you get back into the distribution game?

POHLAD: I don’t know. I always remain open. But right now, I’m concentrating on this film, and the other productions and development we are doing. We’ve got a couple of great things going here. I always stay open to things, but there’s nothing actively going on after Apparition.

DEADLINE: You return with The Tree of Life, which probably has the highest level of wanna see of any picture here. What made you decide to fund this, and how far back does that decision go?

POHLAD: Pretty far back. One of the first things we got involved in was the Che project, when Terry was going to direct. … Read More »

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Cannes Festival Adds Pics By Persecuted Iranian Filmmakers Jafar Panahi And Mohammad Rasoulof

Mike Fleming

In a important show of solidarity, the 2011 Cannes Film Festival has added to its program films directed by Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof, the Iranian filmmakers who each drew six-year prison sentences (with a 20-year filmmaking banishment for Panahi) by a strict Tehran regime that charged them with “propaganda against the state.” Essentially, the men were vilified for publicly mourning protesters killed following the presidential election. Panahi, who won Camera d’Or honors at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival for his first film, The White Balloon, and the Golden Lion in 2000 for The Circle, was arrested again in February 2010, and sent to prison in Tehran on the dubious charge of collusion and propaganda. Filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Francis Coppola, Paul Haggis and Sean Penn, and numerous festivals and humanitarian organizations like Amnesty International, have decried the harsh sentences that have cast a chill on all Iranian filmmakers.

For its part, festival organizers reveal they just got the films that were made in “semi-clandestine” conditions. Read More »

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A 14-Year ‘Gambit’ Finally Provides a Big Payoff For Producer Mike Lobell

Mike Fleming

Production begins today on Gambit, a caper comedy that stars Colin Firth as a London art curator who plans to con England’s richest man into buying a phony Monet painting. To do it, he enlists a Texas steer roper (Cameron Diaz) to pose as a woman whose grandfather liberated the painting at the end of WWII. Michael Hoffman is directing, Alan Rickman and Tom Courtenay also star, and it’s Firth’s first big job since winning the Best Actor Oscar for The King’s Speech. And the script was written by Oscar winners Joel and Ethan Coen. Isn’t Hollywood great, the way these things just magically come together?

Gambit actually took a remarkable 14 years to get to this point, a case study on how impossible it is for producers to succeed without infinite patience and an inability to comprehend the word “no.” These Don Quixote types are the only ones in the moviemaking equation who don’t cash big paychecks through the development process, collecting serious fees only when their movies get made. They have a harder road than ever, because cost-cutting studios have made first-look producer deals an endangered species. After all, producers are bringing them projects anyway. In the case of Gambit, the driving force has been producer Mike Lobell. A seasoned vet who has gotten 14 pictures made — The Freshman, Honeymoon in Vegas and Striptease among them — Lobell … Read More »

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Mob Movie Mania: Relativity Buys ‘Ness/Capone’ As Other Pics Percolate

Mike Fleming

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 »

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TOLDJA! ‘Gangster Squad’ Casting Up With Sean Penn And Ryan Gosling, And Now Josh Brolin

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros has begun negotiating with Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin to star in Gangster Squad, the Will Beall-scripted crime drama that will be directed by Zombieland helmer Ruben Fleischer. Production will begin in the fall. Deadline told you last month that the studio had offered two of the main roles to Penn and Gosling. The linchpin of the film is Los Angeles mobster Mickey Cohen, which is the role that Penn is in talks to play. Gosling and Brolin are in talks to play two cops assigned to bring him down when the gangster’s penchant for violence leaves the blood of innocents on the street. Dan Lin and Kevin McCormick are producing.

Penn had become shaky on the role for a bit — he’s also in talks to star with Christian Bale in the Kurt Johnstad-scripted drama The Last Photograph, which will be directed by The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo helmer Niels Arden Oplev for Dark Castle, but that pic doesn’t start production till next spring — but things have worked out after all. For Penn, this could well be as memorable a gangster turn as when Robert De Niro played Al Capone in The Untouchables. Cohen, a former boxer who became an associate of Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel, was a charismatic figure … Read More »

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Sean Penn, Christian Bale Circle ‘The Last Photograph’ Along With Dark Castle

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Sean Penn is circling The Last Photograph, and I’m told he plans to join Christian Bale in the Kurt Johnstad-scripted drama that will be directed by Niels Arden Oplev, director of the Swedish The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The film is moving from Warner Bros, and is in negotiations to move to Dark Castle, whose Joel Silver and Andrew Rona would board the project as producers and put up the financing. Zack and Deborah Snyder are producing with Hollywood Gang’s Gianni Nunnari.

The film came from an idea by Snyder, who set it up  at Warner Bros with his wife and Nunnari after they all worked together on 300. Set in Afghanistan, it is a timely drama that has elements of The Searchers and Taken. Bale plays a war correspondent who witnesses and is the only survivor of an attack on a group of Americans. Penn is circling the role of a retired ex-special ops soldier who comes to the scene determined to free a family member who has been kidnapped. The journalist agrees to help identify the kidnappers and travel the rough terrain to find them, in exchange for the story. The road brings them in confrontation with tribal regions of Afghanistan, and none of the diplomats will help. Read More »

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In Warner Bros Crime Spree, Studio Eyes Sean Penn For Mickey Cohen, David Yates For Capone Tale

Mike Fleming

Warner Bros is going to the mattresses on mobster movies. The studio has given the green light to Gangster Squad, the Will Beall-scripted crime drama that will be directed by Zombieland helmer Ruben Fleischer. The linchpin of the film is Los Angeles mobster Mickey Cohen, and the studio is formally offering the role to Sean Penn. Ryan Gosling is getting the offer to play one of two cops who try to bring him down. Warner Bros has been sweet on Penn for some time for a role that could be as memorable a gangster turn as when Robert De Niro played Al Capone in The Untouchables. Cohen, a former boxer who became an associate of Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel, was a charismatic figure who caroused around town with a gorgeous girl on his arm, and often with his attractive etiquette coach at his side. He once even took part in a Life Magazine profile. But he was also considered a sociopath whose vices included sex and extortion, and  whose mood could darken on a dime. When innocent people got hurt, law enforcement hardened to the fact he had to be stopped. The drama, based on a series of articles by Paul Lieberman, is the fact-based tale of the crime fighting exploits of a squad of elite Los Angeles officers in the 1940s charged with stopping him and other … Read More »

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