DeFina, whose credits include Martin Scorsese’s “Casino” and “GoodFellas,” and James have tapped three-time Tony Award winner Kathleen Marshall to helm the film adaptation from a screenplay by Matthew Stone (“Intolerable Cruelty”).
James was the leader of Tommy James and the Shondells with No. 1 singles for “Hanky Panky” and “Crimson and Clover” along with a dozen other Top 40 hits, including “I Think We’re Alone Now”, “Mirage”, “Mony Mony”, “Sweet Cherry Wine”, and “Crystal Blue Persuasion.” He has sold an estimated 100 million records.
The book, co-written with Martin Fitzpatrick and published in 2011, centers on James’ years at Roulette Records and his complex and sometimes terrifying relationship with mobster Morris Levy, also known as the “Godfather of the Music Business.” Levy operated through payola and strong-arm tactics. Levy was convicted of extortion in 1990 and died after losing an appeal shortly before he was due to report to prison.
Bruce Springsteen, Santana, Joan Jett, Prince, Tom Jones, Billy Idol, Kelly Clarkson and Cher have recorded covers of James songs, which have been in 60 movies and 53 TV show soundtracks. Currently, he can be heard nationally each week with his “Getting Together” radio show broadcast on Sirius XM.
DeFina’s first producing project was “The Color of Money,” followed by “The Last Temptation of Christ,” “The Age of Innocence,” “Cape Fear,” “Casino” and “You Can Count on Me.” She also executive produced “Goodfellas,” “The Grifters” and “Hugo.” She also produced Michael Jackson’s “Bad” music video.
Marshall won Tonys for choreography in “Anything Goes,” “The Pajama Game” and “Wonderful Town” and was nominated for directing each of those musicals. She also received directing and choreography nominations for “Nice Work if You Can Get It.”
“I am thrilled to now have the very talented Kathleen Marshall signed on to direct the film of my life story,” James said. “Living for so long with underlying feelings of fear and intimidation, and yet being grateful to the very same people for the great success that we had, makes for a wild tale and was often difficult to explain. My deep appreciation to everyone on the team who believed in this project — my manager Carol Ross, our producer Barbara DeFina. our screenwriter Matthew Stone and my co-writer Martin Fitzpatrick. What a team!”
Marshall is repped by CAA and Untitled Entertainment. James and DeFina are repped by Mark Schwartz and George Sheanshang.