He was one of the most ruthless, feared and notorious criminals ever to come out of the Chicago Outfit: Anthony ‘Tony the Ant’ Spilotro. Now, Roland Joffé and Chicagoan Nicholas Celozzi, who is the grand nephew of the late mob boss Sam Giancana and thought of Spilotro as his second father, are bringing Celozzi’s personal story with the mobster to the big screen. The film, The Legitimate Wiseguy, will be directed by Joffé, who was nominated for two Oscars for his brilliant work in the 1980s with The Mission and The Killing Fields.
The film is being described as a contemporary Bronx Tale and was scripted by Celozzi and James McGrath.
Monaco Films, founded by Celozzi and partner Michael Sportelli, will co-produce with financier/developer John Vojtech. The producers will start casting for the film’s three main lead roles — Spilotro, Celozzi and Celozzi, Sr.
Once casting is complete and the film is fully financed, locations will be in Los Angeles. and Las Vegas (where Spilotro’s rise and fall unfolded in the 1970s and 1980s, first as a team of burglars known as the Hole in the Wall gang that operated out of the Gold Rush and later as Chicago’s man in Vegas).
Most audiences will remember Spilotro as portrayed by Joe Pesci in Martin Scorsese’s Casino which was based on the Mafioso’s life and work in Vegas during that time. Celozzi’s mentor and a father figure was an enforcer for the Chicago Outfit and oversaw illegal gaming profits, known as “the skim” on behalf of the Chicago mob at a Las Vegas hotel.
Tony Spilotro and his brother Michael would eventually both end up dead, buried in a pre-dug grave in a cornfield in the Willow Slough perserve (which is close to the Indiana-Illinois state line) after they left from their homes in Oak Park, IL for a meeting and ended up in the basement of a house in Bensonville, IL only to be mercilessly beaten/murdered.
Celozzi has been in the film business for long while. His film producing and writing credits include the documentary Momo: The Sam Giancana Story, which provides a more personal glimpse into the life of Celozzi’s infamous grand uncle. He also served as executive producer on the 2018 installment of the Kickboxer film franchise, Kickboxer: Retaliation and produced the 2016 Kickboxer: Vengeance, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dave Bautista. Celozzi also wrote and produced, among numerous other films, the psycho-thriller The Lost Angel, Nightmare Boulevard and Shattered.
The Legitimate Wiseguy, based on the true coming-of-age story of veteran Hollywood writer/producer Celozzi, showcases his complex relationship with Spilotro while the Las Vegas gangster quarterbacked the young Celozzi’s acting career in Hollywood.
He credits Spilotro with getting him cast as an actor in The A-Team, Hunter, Magnum P.I. and Pretty Smart. The story of how will be told in the upcoming film.
The Legitimate Wiseguy is described as “a story about family loyalty, an influential but deadly uncle, an oppressed father and an impressionable young man who’s background clashes with his desire to succeed in Hollywood at any cost.”
“I didn’t have the best relationship with my father and he and I argued, and Tony filled that void for me. It was like a Bermuda triangle. The more my father and I argued, the closer I relied on Tony. My father cut me off, I didn’t have a dime, where was I supposed to go? He is the one who went to Tony to ask him to help me. He didn’t like me going to Vegas all the time, but what was I going to do? Though Tony and I had a father-son relationship, I was playing checkers while he was playing chess,” Celozzi told Deadline. “He was always many moves ahead of me. At some point, he brought me further in.”
Celozzi added, “People say he was a sociopath and I understand that and I do believe it and I’m not pretending that he wasn’t, but I also saw a different side to him so when he died, it was very rough for me.”
Monaco Films is currently overseeing development and production of several feature-length films, including 2 Days/1963 which explores the underbelly of the Chicago Mob and their role in the JFK assassination.
A saying during that time in the upper echelon of organized crime circles was: “Kill a man he dies once, kill his son, he dies 10,000 deaths” referring, of course, to the Nov. 22, 1963 assassination of the then 46 year-old President John F. Kennedy. Prior to the election, patriarch Joe Kennedy had asked for a favor from the Chicago Outfit via Frank Sinatra who, in turn, went to mob boss Sam Giancana. Chicago delivered by messing with voting process and destroying ballot boxes to ensure a win. The project is being developed with Mark Wolper at Warner Bros. as a six-hour, limited series.
Afterwards, Bobby Kennedy was appointed Attorney General by his brother (the President) with one of his main missions to expose and erase organized crime and dragged a number of people to testify against the mob in the Senate’s Rackets Committee. It was under Kennedy’s reign that the national organized crime syndicate came under attack and resulted in a number of convictions including Anthony ‘Tony Ducks’ Carello, John Ormento, Frankie Carbo, Carmine Galante, Frank ‘Blinky’ Palermo and Alfred Sica and a slew of other men were exposed for having connections. It was seen by the syndicate as the ultimate betrayal by Joe Kennedy, who was a former bootlegger during prohibition.
For 2 Days/1963, Celozzi will relay the story told to him by his Uncle Pepe, Sam Giancana’s brother. The project is being sold by The Exchange and executive produced by Bonnie Giancana (Sam’s daughter). Also, Monaco Films has a crime thriller Revelation (formerly known as 6ix) in pre-production.
David Gersh of The Gersh Agency and Craig Baumgarten of Zero Gravity Management brokered the deal between Joffé and Monaco Films for The Legitimate Wiseguy.