Penthouse founder Bob Guccione’s rise to the top of the media landscape and fall into financial ruin will be the subject of a new television series, Variety has learned.
Jerrick Media and Maven Pictures are teaming up on the project and are currently interviewing writers. The filmmakers say they are interested in providing a deeper understanding of Guccione, who they maintain was much more than just a pornographer.
“Bob Guccione was more of an intellectual,” said Rick Schwartz, co-founder of Jerrick. “He was a complicated guy.”
Schwartz says that Guccione’s Upper East Side mansion wasn’t a Big Apple equivalent of the Playboy mansion. Instead of hedonistic parties, Guccione would host salons with the likes of astronomer and author Carl Sagan or attorney Alan Dershowitz. In addition to producing Penthouse, Guccione invested in cold fusion, backed a science and science-fiction magazine entitled Omni, and released “Caligula,” a notorious epic that blended erotica, history, and a host of RADA trained actors such as Helen Mirren and Peter O’Toole cavorting around ancient Rome.
The Penthouse publisher also photographed the models and began his career as an artist and illustrator.
Guccione came onto Jerrick Media’s radar after co-founder Jeremy Frommer bought a group of storage lockers out of auction in New Jersey.
“There was this Japanese version of ‘Caligula,’ as well as all these old issues of Penthouse,” said Schwartz. “It turned out the storage locker belonged to Bob Guccione.
The partners spent the next three years buying up Guccione’s personal effects, including his personal manuscripts and slides.
Schwartz, whose credits include “The Departed” and “Black Swan,” and Frommer, who has worked on “Till Human Voices Wake Us,” will executive produce the project with Maven Pictures founders Trudie Styler (“Snatch”) and Celine Rattray (“Still Alice”).
The series will be told through the eyes of the women in Guccione’s life, charting his years as a struggling artist and cartoonist in London through the creation of Penthouse to his final years when his empire crumbled around him and he had to file for bankruptcy.
“It’s a meaty story,” said Schwartz, who notes that despite making a splash publishing pornography, Guccione championed women in his professional life, giving the likes of Vogue’s Anna Wintour their initial jobs.
Maven Pictures has previously produced “The Kids are All Right,” “American Honey,” and “Bernie.” Its upcoming credits include “Novitiate” with Melissa Leo and Margaret Qualley and “Kings” with Halle Berry and Daniel Craig.
Jerrick is a digital media and technology company focused on the development and marketing of branded digital content and e-commerce properties.
Given the amount of skin and sex in Guccione’s life, it’s a safe bet that the series won’t be on broadcast television.
“The plan is to do it on cable, Amazon, Netflix or somewhere where we can do it uncensored,” said Schwartz.