'Social' producer raises profile with hot project

Even after more than a decade in Hollywood, producer Dana Brunetti still finds himself pleasantly stunned at the speed that a hot project like “The Social Network” can generate.

“It’s amazing how quickly it came together,” recalls Brunetti. “I think it may have been the first adaptation that was done while the book was still being written.”

Brunetti — Kevin Spacey’s longtime producing partner at Trigger Street Prods. — is one of five producers on “The Social Network” along with director David Fincher, Scott Rudin, Michael De Luca and Cean Chaffin. Aaron Sorkin wrote the script, based on Ben Mezrich’s 2009 book, “The Accidental Billionaires.”

Brunetti had optioned the rights to Mezrich’s tome while it was still being written and prodded the author to seek more detail from Eduardo Saverin, who had sued Mark Zuckerberg. Brunetti and De Luca asked Rudin to come on to the project as a result of the book proposal being leaked onto the Internet, leading to Sorkin being tapped to write.

Brunetti credits Rudin with getting the project pushed forward and remains modest about his own role. “I don’t think I could have ever gotten the project to move that quickly on my own,” he adds.

Brunetti didn’t grow up in the entertainment business, or plan for the career in college. After serving in the Coast Guard, he met Spacey selling him a cell phone and became the actor’s personal assistant 13 years ago and the head of Trigger Street within a few years.

So while “Pay It Forward” was shooting in Las Vegas a decade ago, Brunetti became aware — thanks partly to Spacey’s co-star Helen Hunt — the intricacies of using mathematics to win at blackjack.

A few years later, Brunetti came across a Wired magazine article about Mezrich’s tome, “Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions.”

“I tracked him down by Googling him and called to say I was interested. He thought it was an MIT prank,” Brunetti says. A visit to the Playboy Mansion helped close the deal for the film rights, leading to “21,” another tale of collegiate geniuses out of water, with De Luca, Spacey and Brett Ratner producing.

Without much fanfare, Brunetti’s assembled a significant array of development projects including a pair based on Mezrich’s other books: 2004’s “Ugly Americans: The True Story of the Ivy League Cowboys Who Raided the Asian Markets for Millions”‘ and “Rigged,” a fictional account of the formation of what would eventually become the Dubai Mercantile Exchange.

“It’s amazing how Ben works,” Brunetti marvels. “He’ll be facing a deadline and just lock himself in this apartment for two weeks and do nothing else.”

Brunetti has been developing the story of Captain Richard Phillips, who was rescued from Somali pirates in April 2009. He used his connections from his Coast Guard days to help track down Phillips in Underhill, Vermont, and optioned the rights to his story. He persuaded Spacey to come along.

“I told Kevin, ‘If I show up with you in Underhill, Vermont, they’ll know that we’re serious,” he says.

Brunetti’s productions credits include “Fanboys,” “Shrink,” “Bernard and Doris,” “Mini’s First Time,” “Columbus Day,” “The Sasquatch Gang” and docus “Uncle Frank” and “America Rebuilds: A Year at Ground Zero.”

But his profile’s on the rise with a pair of notable titles coming out soon. He’s an exec producer on “Casino Jack” and a producer on Jason Statham actioner “Safe,” due out in August.

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