Monday, March 7, 2011

KILL THE IRISHMAN – From Reality, to Book, to Script, to Screen

Script Magazine, 3.7.11
by Danielle Alberico


Over the summer of 1976, thirty-six bombs detonate in the heart of Cleveland while a turf war raged between Irish mobster Danny Greene (Ray Stevenson) and the Italian mafia. Based on a true story, Kill the Irishman chronicles Greene’s heroic rise from a tough Cleveland neighborhood to become an enforcer in the local mob. Turning the tables on loan shark Shondor Birns (Christopher Walken) and allying himself with gangster John Nardi (Vincent D’Onofrio), Greene stops taking orders from the mafia and pursues his own power. Surviving countless assassination attempts from the mob and killing off anyone who went after him in retaliation, Danny Greene’s infamous invincibility and notorious fearlessness eventually led to the collapse of mafia syndicates across the U.S. and also earned him the status of the man the mob couldn’t kill.

Written and directed by Jonathan Hensleigh and also starring Val Kilmer, Paul Sorvino and Linda Cardellini, KILL THE IRISHMAN is inspired by ’s true crime account “To Kill The Irishman: The War That Crippled The Mafia.”

Meeting police chief, author, and now credited movie producer, Rick Porrello, in our hometown, and setting of the new feature, Kill the Irishman, is an exciting and nostalgic feeling. Rick is eager to talk about the film and his experience while writing one of the most powerful stories of Cleveland’s history.

This movie is going to put Cleveland on the map. Do you think the people of Cleveland need something to relate to, especially now, during this tough period?

Rick Porrello: Anything pertaining to Cleveland, Clevelanders are proud. And certainly anything relating to sports. Cleveland is a big sports town, a little too heavy with the sports, so I don’t relate too much on that level. I’m not a huge sports fan. Maybe this will be something in another field that they can take ownership of it.

Of course, if it was filmed in Cleveland, it would have been a bigger impact. But I have a feeling even though it wasn’t filmed in Cleveland, people will take to it either way, and be proud of it. I’m already speaking to people who are so proud of this movie being done, though it was filmed in Detroit.

Interesting for film news, this might be the only movie to have a select opening feature in Cleveland, along with entertainment capitals like Los Angeles and NYC.

RP: Yeah, and Detroit a week later.

RP: Some people confuse the title. It’s To Kill THE Irishman. It wasn’t just any Irishman. It was one guy. I don’t want to get all the Irish men in Cleveland after me. It took years of research. Some of the research overlapped from the first book I wrote. Irishman was sort of the like a sequel, or extension.

Did you ever feel in harm’s way or scared while writing? Obviously all these mobs guys were local.

RP: No, but my mother did. My wife did. So, I went to one of the (mob) guys. I developed some relationships with some of the guys on the other side, who knew what was going on. And he said, “The guys that you need to be worried about are the guys that aren’t mentioned in your book.” Cause I was worried, ‘oh man I mentioned this guy’s name in the book, I hope he’s not going be pissed off.’ My wife and my mother were scared, but I wasn’t. I’m a cop. I have a lot of protection, and I’m used to threats. There are people that are angry because they are going to jail, or I would get an occasional threat, so I was kind of already in the business of threats, kind of prone to violence. It wasn’t that much of a concern.

But this guy was right. These guys that are involved with the mob, they need to be validated. There was a great episode of The Soprano’s, where it shows Christopher, who wanted to be this big guy. He wanted to be inducted. He wanted to be more involved. One day he finds his name mentioned in one small article. So, he goes to the newspaper machine, puts in a quarter, and takes out a stack, and starts handing them out to people. That was him being validated. They either have to be arrested, recently done prison time, have their name in a book, or all the above. They thrive on all that. It’s like gangs, or wanna-be gangsters, or the thug mentality. To serve some time is like a feather in your cap. It’s an image thing, it’s a reputation.
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