NY duo to play ‘Fifth’ card

Ridley to pen, helm GreeneStreet & Killer project

NEW YORK — Marking the first collaboration between two of New York’s leading independent production banners, GreeneStreet Films and Killer Films will produce a feature based on author James McManus’ nonfiction bestseller “Positively Fifth Street,” which John Ridley will adapt and direct.

Following in the footsteps of Hunter S. Thompson and his ’70s outlaw classic “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” novelist McManus checked into the same Vegas hotel three decades later on assignment for Harper’s magazine to write a feature on the World Series of Poker.

Rather than simply cover the tournament as a reporter, McManus decided to enter as a player, using his Harper’s advance as an entry stake and eventually finishing in fifth place. At the same time, the writer began following the trial of a stripper and her lover, accused of murdering the former’s fiance Ted Binion, son of the powerful casino family that founded the tournament.

Published in April by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, the book is a suspenseful account of how the author’s fascination with poker and its players drew him into the seedy underworld surrounding America’s favorite card game.

GreeneStreet founding partners John Penotti and Fisher Stevens will produce with Killer’s Christine Vachon and Brad Simpson, in association with Marit Weisenberg of Ridley’s Intl. Famous Players Radio Picture Corp. Weisenberg brought the book to Ridley and will co-produce. John Wells will serve as exec producer.

“When I read this book, all I could think about was what an amazing movie it would make — combining poker with a high-profile murder case,” said GreeneStreet’s Stevens said.

Vegas vision

“John Ridley is one of our most astute observers of the modern American landscape — and he knows the culture of Las Vegas like few do,” Simpson said. Ridley’s a prolific author, television and film producer and regular NPR commentator; screenwriting credits include “Three Kings,” “U Turn” and “Undercover Brother.” He is attached to write and direct “Let Me Take You Down” for Lions Gate. Ridley was a writer and exec producer on UPN series “Platinum” and a supervising producer on NBC’s “Third Watch.”

‘Yes’ men

GreeneStreet’s most recent production was Boaz Yakin’s “Uptown Girls,” which MGM released in August. Company is in post-production on Sally Potter’s “Yes,” with Joan Allen and Sam Neill; and “Slow Burn,” starring Ray Liotta, LL Cool J, Mekhi Phifer, Taye Diggs and Jolene Blalock.

Upcoming for Killer is Robert Altman’s ballet pic “The Company,” opening Christmas Day through Sony Pictures Classics; and Colin Farrell starrer “A Home at the End of the World,” due early next year from Warner Independent Pictures.

Both Ridley and McManus are repped by ICM.

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