New Line Cinema has acquired “The Michael Pelligrino Story,” a pitch based on the life of a failed crook from Chicago who fooled top Hollywood book agents and publisher Simon & Schuster into believing that he was the illegitimate grandson of Carlo Gambino.
Producers Galt Niederhoffer and Celine Rattay optioned Kevin Gray’s article “The Con Man Who Betrayed the Mob,” published in the December issue of Details.
Gray detailed how Pelligrino, while in prison for fraud, worked a single Hollywood connection to take a conference call with top lit agent Joel Gotler.
Once Pelligrino was out of the joint, Gotler sold the mock mobster tale to the Pocket Books division of Simon & Schuster and a $600,000 advance.
Neither the publisher nor the agent knew that Pelligrino’s tales were tall.
However, mob stories were then white-hot, thanks to the success of “The Sopranos.”
With the help of a ghostwriter, Pelligrino penned “The Honored Society” under the pseudonym Michael Gambino and the publisher positioned Pelligrino’s tale as a roman a clef.
However, nothing in Pelligrino’s novel was based in truth. As one actual mob associate told Gray, “There was no way he could have done all this shit and still be walking around.”
Niederhofer told Daily Variety, “All they cared about was the marketing hook. It was in everyone’s best interest for this guy to be a success.”
James Manos, who won an Emmy for his writing on “The Sopranos,” is penning the script.
Niederhofer said that the film would also contain a romance between Pelligrino and a publishing house fact checker.
Niederhoffer and Ratay recently formed Gotham-based Plum Pictures with Daniela Soto-Taplin.
New Line execs on the project are Matt Moore, Luke Ryan, Mark Kaufman and Janis Chaskin.