Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Irishman, Book to Movie Interview with Author and Agent

By Roberta M. Gubbins, Ingham County Legal News

Lawyers write. They write briefs, opinion letters, memos, contracts of all sorts and sizes, wills, trusts—I could go on forever. Many write fictionalized stories based on events that happened during the course of their careers. Some of those stories are published and some are made into movies. How does that happen?

Recently I met with Rick Porrello, author of “To Kill the Irishman, the War that Crippled the Mafia” and his agent, Peter Miller, of PMA Literary & Film Management, Inc. They were in Detroit to assist with the filming of the action movie based on Porrello’s book, the true story of mobster, Danny Greene, a violent Irish-American gangster who competed with the Italian mob in 1970’s Cleveland--a competition that provoked a country-wide turf war.

Code Entertainment is producing the movie, which stars Ray Stevenson as Danny Greene, Christopher Walken as loan shark and nightclub owner, Shondor Birns, and Val Kilmer as the Cleveland police detective who befriends Greene. Jonathan Hensleigh directs the film. “They plan to release it by St. Patrick’s Day,” said Porrello.

Porrello, now Chief of Police in Cleveland, wrote his first book, “Superthief,” about his mobster grandfather and uncles who were killed in the early 1930s by opposing factions of the mob. “I started “The Irishman” immediately after my first book. My wife and I opened a bottle of champagne when we got the author’s copies, and I said I would never, ever do this again. But once I got those books in my hands, I thought ‘I’ve got to do this again, very soon.’

I self published “The Irishman.” I couldn’t come to terms on a deal with my original publisher so I decided to self-publish the book.” When it came out, two movie companies got in touch with Porrello, wanting exclusive movie rights. “I had no idea how to decide between them. I contacted Peter (Miller). He read the contracts, negotiated for me, and advised me which deal was best.” Code Entertainment bought the movie rights. “That was eleven years ago.”

“Where we are now,” said Miller, joining us after one of his many phone calls, “with the movie in production, and the book going to be published by Simon and Schuster, and I’m now going to auction it off in England and Ireland, is where we want to be.”

“It is not easy getting a movie produced. It has gotten much more complicated. There are two ways to make movie deals. One is you work with a studio, sign a contract with them, and you are at their complete mercy. On those deals, I get a fee as an executive producer and they buy the movie rights. That is plan A.”

“Plan B is an independent deal. Code Entertainment has five investors. We wanted to do it as a bigger movie, but the actors wanted a bonus package to be able to bring their entourage. You would not believe what these actors bring to the table—‘an extra non-accountable one million dollars for their chef and their barber and their baby sitter and on and on.”

“This is very important to Rick, I am proud that we worked for a long time to accomplish this. And the script is dynamite. This has been a long road for Rick, but it is a good road, and it will give him gravitas in his world. He will sell more books.”

“My first edition of the “Irishman” had lots of errors in it,” said Porrello, laughing. “I didn’t have a professional editor or proof reader, but the book was selling so well that after the third printing, I got almost all of the errors sorted out. It still needs work but we never got to that point. Now we will, because the book is being published by Pocketbooks and they will work with me to polish it.”

“I promoted it by starting a web site called AmericanMafia.com. It is the biggest and most comprehensive organized crime history on the net. We are eleven years old, and we get several thousand hits per day. And everything is archived—we have many original feature stories. Several authors who have written books about organized crime started with AmericanMafia.com.”

Miller and Porrello are executive producers of the film. After our meeting, they were off to the film set to watch as Porrello’s book was made into a movie. With luck, we will see the final result next spring.

Cutline for photo: Peter Miller, PMA Literary & Film Management, Inc. and Rick Perrollo, author of “To Kill the Irishman,” celebrate the filming of a movie based on Perrollo’s book.
Article and Photo by Roberta Gubbins, Ingham County Legal News

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