EXCLUSIVE: David Mamet will direct 2 Days/1963, a drama scripted by Nicholas Celozzi that purports to tell how his great uncle, the notorious Chicago mobster Sam Giancana, arranged the assassination of President John F Kennedy, as revenge for trying to bring down organized crime after the mob helped put JFK in the White House. Mamet, the twice Oscar nominated scribe and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, will do a rewrite on Celozzi’s script. The film will be produced by Celozzi through his Monaco Films, with VP Michael Sportelli also producing. Bonnie Giancana, daughter of the late mobster, will be a consultant and executive producer.
The drama will focus on previously untold events that took place during the 48 hours before the assassination of America’s 35th president in November 1963. Some of Celozzi’s information comes from his late Uncle Pepe — Giancana’s brother — who, Celozzi said, told him about the mob’s complicity in the killing. The story will unveil the mob’s version of the assassination—payback for JFK’s snubbing of Giancana after he helped get Kennedy elected, and for Robert Kennedy’s investigation into and attempt to dismantle organized crime.
Production will begin fourth quarter 2022 in Los Angeles and on location in Dallas. Distribution and release of the feature are in current discussions. The deal was brokered by John Burnham of Atlas Artists, Stan Coleman of Weintraub Tobin, and attorney Alan Abrams.
The mob theory was part of what director Oliver Stone presented in the film JFK, which focused on findings by New Orleans DA Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) that contradicted the lone gunman conclusion by the Warren Commission. When Celozzi’s script was sent to Mamet, it reawakened the writer/director’s own skepticism that he felt a decade ago when he was going to direct a movie about inconsistencies in the Zapruder film, the only known visual chronicle of Kennedy’s final moments.
“I wrote a really good script based on the Zapruder film about 10 years ago, Cate Blanchett was going to do it and we were all ready to start shooting it and then the money guy pulled out,” Mamet told Deadline, who acknowledges the difficulty of definitively declaring what actually happened that tragic day. “There was a wonderful physicist named Richard Fynman who said the great discoveries in science aren’t when someone says, ‘eureka I have found it,’ but when the scientist says, ‘hey, that’s funny.’ I was inspired to get into the Zapruder film for the idea that several of the frames were missing, which they are. One of the frames had actually been altered. Why has the film been altered, that’s funny. When you look at the secret panel on assassinations, their secret findings were held and were supposed to be released last year. But they said, we’re holding some of them back. I said to myself, that’s funny. What does it mean, I don’t know, but it means something.
“Nick wrote and sent me this script, and it’s a helluva script,” Mamet said. “Really inside stuff, similar to what Francis Coppola did with Mario Puzo in The Godfather. That’s the great American film, but it’s got very little to do with the book. What’s The Godfather really about? Francis Coppola and Mario Puzo sitting around a kitchen table and telling the stories they overheard of their grandparents. That’s why we love that movie, it reeks of being inside, of family and cultural myths presented like gossip. It’s the stuff Nick heard around the kitchen table from the people who knew. It’s incredibly yummy. It made me say, I would love to make this movie, and here we are.”
Celozzi said he heard plenty of stories at the table, enough to be convinced his family was at the center of the event, and that it was squarely revenge.
“I feel very solid about all of it,” Celozzi said. “My Uncle Joe, we called him Pepe, he was with [Giancana] those two days when those other guys were down in Dallas. They usually drove my uncle around, so he asked Pepe to drive him around. The story I got, I got from him. The story of the underbelly that pulled it off. Pepe was the fly on the wall, in the basement, at Accardi’s house. When I gave the script to Bonnie Giancana to read, she said you’re about 85% correct.”
Celozzi said the mob and the government were bedfellows in sordid affairs for years, and that the JFK Administration ignored any quarter Giancana and his cohorts felt they had earned.
“Organized crime used to do things for the government before they learned to do the things for themselves,” Celozzi said. “They were hired out as assassins, working for the government. My uncle used to say the government couldn’t exist without organized crime, that’s how closely they were working together. Regarding my uncle swaying three states to get Kennedy elected, that’s a foregone conclusion. But it’s more than a betrayal of getting him in office. The Kennedy administration was trying to dismantle organized crime. The brother started going after them, every single one of them. As far as Tony Accardo was concerned, this was crawling up onto his lawn. This was going on awhile, and it was something they tried to eradicate, tried to change their minds. They talked to Kennedy’s father, Joe, who told the kids to back off a couple of times. It’s a combination of the betrayal but more the investigation, the subpoenas as the brother tried to dismantle organized crime.”
Celozzi said he sought out Mamet because his distinctive voice when he writes tough guy mob dialogue rang so true to what he heard being around it. Mamet’s forays into that genre include The Untouchables, Things Change, Lansky, Heist and Hoffa.
Mamet said it’s always a challenge to execute a drama “where you walk in humming the punchline,” but believes that the influence from an insider creates an opportunity.,
“There are several central characters going in that include Sam Giancana and Jack Ruby, and what I’m looking for as a director and if I mess around with it as a writer is not what do we know, but what don’t we know. What’s on the inside? Rather than them being cardboard cutouts, Ruby killing Oswald and Giancana schtupping Kennedy’s girlfriend, it’s how can I find the tasty stuff in the transitional. scenes. The wonderful challenge of the film reminded me when U.S. Grant wrote his memoir, which was a huge bestseller. Mark Twain was his editor, and he said, ‘Grant writes so well he makes you wonder who is going to win the Civil War.’”
Celozzi’s credits include the docu Momo: The Sam Giancana Story.