David O. Russell’s latest turn: New England city politics

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The very busy David O. Russell has another story to occupy his post-'Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune’ time: He’s officially involved with a biopic about longtime Rhode Island mayor Buddy Cianci that will be produced by the New York-based production company of Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal (“Little Fockers,” “Being Flynn”).

Based on Cianci’s elaborately titled “Politics and Pasta: How I Prosecuted Mobsters, Rebuilt a Dying City, Advised a President, Dined With Sinatra, Spent Five Years in a Federally Funded Gated Community and Lived to Tell the Tale,’ the new untitled biopic tells of the 21-year mayor who — oh yes — went to jail for nearly five years on racketeering charges after a career rooting out corruption in his New England hometown. Cianci has had more lives than a bungee-jumping cat; there’s even talk he will run for public office again.


About a year ago, Rosenthal had mentioned informally that she’d like Russell to come aboard the film. Now it’s official. According to his arrangement with the producer, he’ll direct but won’t write, Rosenthal said, though he will have a hand in the script too.

Since he parted ways with Sony’s “Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune,’ Russell has been making use of his spare time. Most recently, he signed on to a 1980s story about an FBI sting that exposed congressional corruption -- even as he finishes cutting “The Silver Linings Playbook,” his fall relationship movie that stars Jennifer Lawrence, De Niro and Bradley Cooper.

The Cianci film also marks a further turn for Russell, who, after hitting it big with ‘The Fighter,’ has moved from oddball comedies to more hard-boiled and dramatic material; witness, also, his development of a Russ Meyer biopic (though Cianci’s larger-than-life personality will ensure his film subjects remain colorful).

Rosenthal has been developing the Cianci movie independently at Tribeca Films, the company she and De Niro run, but says that she is close to a financing deal.

As she prepares for the Wednesday kickoff of the 11th annual Tribeca Film Festival that she co-founded, Rosenthal has kept up her prolific producing efforts. She’s working with English producer Graham King on the upcoming Freddie Mercury biopic starring Sacha Baron Cohen, a spinoff of sorts from her long-running West End musical “We Will Rock You.’

And Rosenthal has shepherded and executive produced an hourlong television series, “NYC 22,” a sidewalk-wise cop story that debuted on CBS on Sunday night.

One passion project, however, may not enjoy the same success. Fans of ‘Lombardi,’ the long-gestating football film from writer Eric Roth about the Green Bay Packers head coach, has had little forward progress. Rosenthal sounded pessimistic when asked if the film could be going in front of the cameras any time soon.

‘As a producer I feel everything should be made for a price,’ she said of the movie, which requires significant period sets and costumes. ‘But a lot of the numbers I’ve heard [from financiers] are simply way too low.’


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-- Steven Zeitchik reporting from New York