Paramount has come out on top in the fight for New York Times best-selling author T.J. English‘s latest non-fiction masterpiece, THE CORPORATION: AN EPIC STORY OF THE CUBAN AMERICAN UNDERWORLD. Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson will produce through their Appian Way banner, the first project for DiCaprio and his shingle since the ink dried on his three-year first-look deal at the studio. Jaydee Freixas and Tony Gonzalez, who were attached to the project when it first hit the market, will produce with Appian. As part of the package, steered by Liz Rapaso and Michael Hampton, Benicio Del Toro will star and David Matthews will adapt the script. Paradigm’s David Boxerbaum, Dana Spector, and Gabriel Mena handled the film rights.
We’re hearing Paramount came in with a hefty seven figure offer, fighting off multiple offers from other majors. DiCaprio chased David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon through Warner Bros. earlier this year before Warner decided to pair up with Brett Ratner’s RatPac on that bid; Paramount clearly had angle to do right by its newly minted Oscar-winning partner in its hard-to-resist package.
Also in the mix were Lionsgate and MGM, who bid for Joby Harold and Tory Tunnell’s Safehouse Pictures, while Universal took this for Scott Stuber’s Bluegrass Films and Antoine Fuqua.
Scott Rudin and Amy Pascal teamed up for Sony, with Paul Greengrass involved as a producer. Oscar Isaac was rumored to be in the mix on a deal from Ratner and David Heyman of HeyDay Films over at Warner.
The story, pitched as The Godfather meets American Gangster, is a unique, untold American gangster story of Jose Miguel Battle Sr. (“El Padrino”), the leader of “The Corporation” – also known as “The Godfather.” He was Batista’s bag man, bringing him his cut from the gambling casinos when the Mafia ran Cuba. Battle escaped to the States where he and other Cubans were trained by the CIA to invade the country at the ill-fated Bay of Pigs. Having saved the lives of 28 of his men, The Godfather came out of that debacle as a certified hero to many Cuban-Americans. The core of the gang had been trained as a unit, and together formed “The Corporation.”
“The Corporation” started out running the popular numbers racket, known as “bolita,” but soon moved on to money laundering and murder. Battle and his associates never gave up the dream of killing Castro and reclaiming Cuba; they became financiers of the anti-Castro movement by funding paramilitary groups such as the Iran-Contras, Omega 7, and Alpha 66. The Corporation would survive and grow until finally being brought down by a detective who pursued them relentlessly for over 15 years. The story of The Corporation is not only the story of a unique criminal enterprise, but also the story of a generation and a culture defining itself through a brutal version of the American Experience.
English’s account of this remarkable true story just sold last week in what we’re hearing was a mid six to seven figure deal. It is set to be published by William Morrow in the winter of 2017.
English, who has been a journalist for over thirty years, has a deep familiarity with this subject. His 2008 book, Havana Nocturne, explores the battle between the Cuban Mob and the rising Castro regime. That story is currently in development with Black Label Media and Voltage Pictures. English himself is also a screenwriter, having written for NYPD Blue and Homicide: Life of the Streets.
English is repped by Nat Sobel of Sobel Weber Associates, while David Boxerbaum, Dana Spector, and Gabriel Mena handled the film rights for Paradigm.
The market has been firing on all cylinders the last couple of weeks, between the blockbuster sale of Bright from Max Landis and the massive price tag placed on David Grann’s Killers Of The Flower Moon. The seven figure deal for The Corporation only adds more heat to an already hot spec market.