Veteran Hollywood multi-hyphenate George Gallo (“Bad Boys,” “The Comeback Trail”) is attached to direct “Gambino,” a high-end biopic about organized crime boss Carlo Gambino that Gallo is co-writing with two-time Oscar winner Nick Vallelonga (“Green Book”).
The ambitious project, announced in Cannes, is being lead produced by Julius R. Nasso, also a Hollywood veteran, best known for his production partnership with Steven Seagal that went sour. Nasso more recently shepherded “Narc,” and is among producers of Susanne Rostock’s Harry Belafonte doc “Sing Your Song.”
Nasso has acquired rights to the novel “Gambino: The Rise” by Pierre James which delves into the U.S. story of Cosa Nostra starting from its roots in Italy and the role played by Carlo Gambino, who was its boss from 1957 until his death in 1976 of natural causes in his Massapequa, Long Island, home.
“I have known this story all my life,” Gallo told Variety, speaking from Los Angeles.
Gallo added that Gambino’s world is very different from that of “The Sopranos,” noting that Carlo Gambino came from an educated background and was a quiet, soft‐spoken man with a courtly manner.
“He was a businessman in a darker universe,” Gallo said. “A tremendous Machiavellian money-maker; that’s why he got to the top and stayed there for decades.”
The “Gambino” film will be “a tale of money and power as the world changed around him,” and also, of course, of betrayals and violence. “But there won’t be a lot of people getting whacked,” the director went on to point out.
Gallo also noted that he’s been friends for decades with Vallelonga and Nasso. Nasso in turn has been pals for ages with U.S.-based Italian singer/songwriter and music producer Tony Renis, who is also among producers of the “Gambino” film. Renis is also set to play Gambino as an old man and is in charge of the film’s music score.
Vallelonga, speaking in Cannes, noted that the approach he and Gallo are taking is: “This is not just a mob movie. We’ve seen a lot of that. This is Shakespearean; it’s on that level. We have to elevate the material, and that’s what we are going to go for.”
“Think of ‘Once Upon a Time in America,’ said Nasso who started out in the film business as an assistant to Sergio Leone. “The book starts from when Gambino was a young boy, so there will be three characters playing the one [titular] role,” he added.
Nasso said he is looking to start pre-production on “Gambino” in Italy in January. The plan is for cameras to start rolling no later than July 15, 2023. The producer intends to reconstruct New York between the 1950s and the 70s at Rome’s Cinecittà Studios and shoot the entire film in Italy.
Nasso and his team have also been scouting locations in Italy’s southern Calabria, Puglia, and Campania regions.
Casting, for which Nasso said he is seeking A-list Hollywood talent, will start as soon as the screenplay is ready. Meanwhile he is recruiting the film’s below-the-line crew in Italy and is in talks with triple-Oscar winner Dante Ferretti who is based at Cinecittà, to come on board as the film’s production designer he said.
“Gambino” is being produced by Julius R. Nasso, Tony Renis, China Bridge Capital founder and CEO Edward Zeng, and Santo Versace, who is an investor, and president of, Italy’s Minerva Pictures.
Minerva chief Gianluca Curti will serve as executive producer, as will Helena Zeng and Ken Atchity.
The film is being produced by Nasso Production, which is as Nasso-Zeng company. Pic is fully financed by Edward Zeng and former Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam, who were both present at the film’s Cannes announcement.
Minerva Pictures will be handling international sales, excluding U.S., on “Gambino.”
(Pictured above from left: Tony Renis; Nick Vallelonga; Julius R. Nasso in Cannes)