Director Daniel Adams is seeking redemption and resumption of his Hollywood career — a year after being released from Massachusetts state prison for inflating expenses to obtain production tax credits.
“Directing is what I know how to do,” he told Variety. “I had a lot of time to think about that in jail.”
He’s attached to direct “Panama,” an action-thriller he co-wrote with William Barber about an ex-Marine hired in 1989 by a defense contractor to travel to Panama to complete an arms deal. In the process he becomes involved with the Nicaraguan Contras and the U.S. invasion of Panama, and learns an important lesson about the true nature of political power.
Barber is the producer and financer with Harris Tulchin as executive producer of the project. According to Adams, plans are for a budget in the $10 million-plus range with shooting tentatively set for early summer 2015 in Miami.
“I’m definitely not producing this time,” Adams told Variety. “That’s how I got into trouble in the first place.”
Adams broke into the business in late 1980s, casting Sandra Bullock in her first leading role, “A Fool and His Money,” originally titled “Religion Inc.”
“It’s an ironic title, given what happened to me later,” he admitted.
Adams had worked on low-budget films such as “Primary Motive,” starring Judd Nelson and Justine Bateman, and “The Mouse,” starring John Savage and Rip Torn. The trouble began when he submitted fraudulent tax filings to obtain tax credits on two films — 2009 period romance “The Lightkeepers,” starring Richard Dreyfuss and Blythe Danner, and 2008’s “The Golden Boys,” starring David Carradine, Bruce Dern, Rip Torn, Charles Durning and Mariel Hemingway.
In a widely reported case, Adams was indicted in December 2011 on 10 counts of making false claims and larceny after his production company received $4.7 million in tax credits from the state of Massachusetts, which were used toward production expenses on “The Lightkeepers” and “The Golden Boys” — both shot on Cape Cod. For example, investigators found he had claimed to have paid Dreyfuss $2.5 million when the actual payment was $400,000.
“I got carried away trying to get the films completed,” he notes.
He pleaded guilty on April 19, 2012, paid $4.4 million in restitution and agreed to serve 10 years on probation when he completed his prison term.
“I am deeply sorry and want to apologize to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the court, and the Department of Revenue,” Adams said at the sentencing.
While incarcerated for a year and a half, he developed a healthier lifestyle — “I used to weigh 300 pounds and I lost over 100 pounds” — and decided that he would focus on serious movies when he got out.
“I don’t think I would be able to do something light like a romance any more,” he noted.
He teamed up with Barber, who was involved with Ed Asner’s production company during the 1980s and funded other productions and tax credit deals. Barber bankrolled his son Robert’s low budget horror film “All About Evil,” directed by Robert’s business partner Joshua Grannell.
UPDATE on Sept. 11: Adams has decided to take on a directing gig next year prior to “Panama.” He will direct “Land of the Free” for producer and co-writer Marie Paquim. The film is inspired by a true story about an F.B.I. agent fighting demons from his past who combines forces with an enslaved Portuguese woman to shut down a notorious human trafficking ring.
Paquim, whose real-life kidnapping and fight to escape slavery inspired the script, said the choice of Adams was because, “few people can understand the horrors I went through, but, due to his own recent experience, Daniel understands. I cannot imagine another director that can bring to life the reality I faced. We both know what it means to be alone, imprisoned in a dark room.”