Recently, I had come across a YouTube recommendation for the (John) Gotti trailer, and it seemed pretty cool and worth a look. John Travolta was going from playing slime ball OJ lawyer, Robert Shapiro to playing the “Dapper Don”, John Gotti. All was going well with the film and its release…until now, as Lionsgate Films has shelved the premier ten days before its debut!
First off, Gotti wasn’t going to get a wide release via big Lionsgate, but rather Lionsgate Premiere which is typically where specialty films and day and date titles are released. Travolta and the Gotti producers decided that they wanted a wider release. There was a buy-back clause in the distribution agreement, so the producers exercised it. It was never a matter of Lionsgate dumping the film. Gotti has been sold back to its original producers. The pic originally went into production in 2016.
The film has had a long development history. At one point, Barry Levinson was set to direct with James Toback co-writing with the director, but that was six years ago. Prior to Levinson, Nick Cassavetes was attached to helm. At one point, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Lindsay Lohan, Ben Foster, and Chazz Palminteri were attached to star during the pic’s path to production.
Fiore Films originally acquired life rights from John Gotti Jr., the son of the late head of the Gambino crime family. This was quite unprecedented as it was the first time that a Gotti family member agreed to tell their story on the big screen.
Fast forward to today, and the news is changing in regards to the story. John Travolta is upset with how the rumors are beginning to spread online and in the media. Travolta told Deadline.com, he is upset that fast-spreading news reports twisted the truth as Lionsgate pulled his upcoming film Gotti off its release calendar 10 days before release.
He worried the reports trivialized what he considers one of his better performances as the iconic Gambino crime family head John Gotti in the Kevin Connolly directed film. He is underwhelmed with the tiny release that Lionsgate planned for the film through its multi-platform arm Lionsgate Premiere, which is devoted primarily to genre type releases.
Trying to protect what he believes is a wide release worthy theatrical film, and perhaps the quality of his own performance, Travolta sought out a financier to change the fate of the film. He found one in Edward Walson. Walson is the producer of eight films and five Broadway plays. These include, the Woody Allen-directed Café Society and upcoming Wonder Wheel. Walson and cohorts found the money to buy Lionsgate out of the equation. It has been said that a new deal is close with another theatrical distributor that will make Gotti a wide release.
“Unfortunately, the reports were speculation bordering on fake news. Lionsgate was planning on a minimal release, and I did an investigation into people who might have the interest and financial wherewithal to better release it. Ed is a fan of mine and of the Gotti story and really wanted to see the movie. I invited his group, they saw it and bought it. That is the simple explanation for this. It wasn’t dropped. It wasn’t easy to get Lionsgate to give it up. They said no, twice, and I literally begged them to reconsider and they finally and generously let it go. We signed this deal about three weeks ago, to purchase back the film from Lionsgate. Our mistake was we should have said something right then and discussed our plan for the film. We didn’t anticipate this speculation that is so grossly wrong.” – Travolta in Deadline.
Walson told Deadline, “When I heard John (Travolta) was doing it, I wished that the project had been brought to me and that I could have been a producer. I know one of the writers, Leo Rossi (who wrote the script with Lem Dobbs), and John and I first connected on an airport tarmac last year and developed a friendship. Not knowing anything about the release plans, I saw the film and loved it, especially John’s portrayal as Gotti. It’s a supreme piece of work I thought deserves proper recognition.”
“Having produced eight films, I’ve seen the frustration that sometimes happens when distributors don’t think of out-of-the-box ways to promote a movie, let alone spend any P&A money. I thought, here is an opportunity to take a magnificent movie, and get it seen. This is a big movie-star film, with a multi-dimensional, iconic character portrayed by one of the great multi-talented actors. We are hoping to take this movie to Cannes; it’s a movie-star film that deserves the glitter of Cannes and then a wide release shortly thereafter.”
There is no doubt that this film will be released in 2018 and people will be interested. I think it will do very well if given the wide release. It also would help that it is a well made film. The trailer looks like it can be. It has the star power and mafia subjects always do well. This is as notorious and relevant a mobster there is. Certainly in recent times. We shall see soon. Get your popcorn.