NEW YORK — David Mamet has inked a seven-figure deal with Warner Bros. to script a film about gangster John Dillinger, and the studio is negotiating with “Boys Don’t Cry” director Kimberly Peirce to helm.
Section Eight’s Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney are producing, with company toppers Ben Cosgrove and Jennifer Fox exec producing. Jon Berg and Todd Komarnicki, who brought the project to Section Eight’s Fox, will also serve as producers via their Guy Walks Into A Bar Prods.
While Mamet is perhaps best known as the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of “Glengarry Glen Ross” and scripter of taut contemporary film thrillers, the Dillinger duty puts him back into familiar territory he covered in one of his most successful scripts, “The Untouchables.”
Like “Untouchables” antagonists Al Capone and Frank Nitti, Dillinger also was a Depression-era desperado. He grew from a hapless crook who got caught in his very first stick-up of a grocery store. After pleading guilty and serving an 8½-year stretch while his accomplice pleaded not guilty and served only two, Dillinger became a hardened killer who quickly became the FBI’s public enemy No. 1.
He began knocking off banks right away in a spree of lawlessness that saw him get caught twice, only to escape from prison each time. J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI agents finally gunned him down as he left a movie theater.
While Clooney seems a perfect fit as the prototypical gangster, he’s attached only as a producer.
Peirce had long been interested in Dillinger as the prototype of the machine gun-spraying gangster and has wanted to turn his life into a film for several years.
The film will be a much different exercise for Mamet than was “The Untouchables.” In fact, it will be more comparable to “Badlands,” “They Live by Night” and “Bonnie and Clyde,” in that the gangsters drive the story far more than the feds who are chasing them.
Mamet just completed directing “Diary of a Young London Physician,” based on his own scripted take of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story for WB and Franchise. Jude Law and Penelope Cruz star in the Art Linson-produced pic.
Mamet was in the process of mounting another directing effort, but temporarily put it aside to concentrate on the Dillinger assignment. Mamet is repped by ICM and attorney Stan Coleman.
Pierce, whose deal hasn’t quite closed yet, is repped by Endeavor. She’s also developing a screen adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End” at Universal, with Rafael Yeglesias writing the script.
The film will be co-produced by Todd Komarnicki and Jon Berg.