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Brewer, Vantage join ‘Gang’

Studio options Venkatesh book

Paramount Vantage has optioned the Sudhir Venkatesh book “Gang Leader for a Day” and set Craig Brewer to direct and “Sopranos” scribe Michael Caleo to write the script.

Stephanie Allain, who teamed with Brewer on “Hustle & Flow” and “Black Snake Moan,” will produce. Brewer wrote and directed both of those films, with Paramount Classics distributing the first and Par Vantage the follow-up.

Venkatesh is a Columbia U. professor, and “Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets” recounted years he spent chronicling a crack-dealing gang in Chicago for a research project. He befriended the Black Kings and their leader and was invited to observe close up. Venkatesh found a close-knit group whose corporate culture was much like that of a successful legitimate business. Venkatesh was given the job of calling the shots of the criminal enterprise for a day.

His adventure was first chronicled in “Freakonomics,” the Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner book that is being turned into a documentary in which topnotch directors will make short films of chapters in the book. Chad Troutwine (“Paris je t’aime”), Seth Gordon (“The King of Kong”), Morgan Spurlock (“Super Size Me”), Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing (“Jesus Camp”), Alex Gibney (“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room”), Laura Poitras (“My Country, My Country”), Eugene Jarecki (“Why We Fight”) and Jehane Noujaim (“Control Room”) have each signed on to direct a segment.

Caleo was nominated for an Emmy for his 2004 “Sopranos” episode “Where’s Johnny?”

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