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GOTTI: IN THE SHADOW OF MY FATHER

John 'Junior' Gotti agrees to movie about his life

LOUIS LANZANO / AP
** EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE UNTIL 8:00 A.M. EDT WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 22 ** FILE - In this March 10, 2006 file photo, John "Junior" Gotti exits Manhattan federal court with his brother Peter, left, by his side, in New York. John "Junior" Gotti, the now 46-year-old son of the late, legendary Gambino crime family leader, "Dapper Don" John Gotti, has agreed to a deal with the independent production company Fiore Films. (AP Photo/ Louis Lanzano, File)

Hollywood has produced no shortage of movies and TV shows about the mob, but this one's coming straight from the most high-profile source imaginable: John "Junior" Gotti has sold the rights to his life story.

The 46-year-old son of the late, legendary Gambino crime family leader, "Dapper Don" John Gotti, has agreed to a deal with the independent production company Fiore Films. Financial details weren't made available because of a signed nondisclosure agreement, but a film about Gotti's life is in the works with a production budget of $15 million.

Gotti was tried four times since 2005 for racketeering, with each trial ending in a hung jury. He was released from prison in December after serving nine years in a previous racketeering case. He has said he left the life of organized crime in 1999.

These days, he's simultaneously working on a book and a screenplay with actor-writer Leo Rossi, which should be done by the end of the year. Casting should be announced around then, too, with shooting scheduled to begin in March. Fiore Films CEO Marc Fiore said Sylvester Stallone is among the people who've expressed interest in being involved both as director and star.

"I didn't realize how many fans the Gotti family had," Fiore said. "I'm getting calls from people we probably would not be able to speak to yet because of the infancy of our company."

Gotti said he chose this company because it was local and because it would let him tell his story.

"It's going to be filmed in New York, I've been working on it in New York, we can be an active player in the situation from start to finish," Gotti said Tuesday in a 30-minute, rare interview with The Associated Press. "They were willing to hear my thoughts and they assured me the script would be absolutely accurate, the script would be fair."

Gotti said previous movies about his family were mostly false because they relied on accounts from journalists or government agents. The HBO movie about his father, "Gotti" from 1996, was probably the most accurate of them all, he said, "and even that missed the mark by at least 40 percent."

"The opportunity presented itself to clear up a lot of inaccuracies," Gotti said. "Now, to do it for the big screen, which I'd never imagined, automatically it's appetizing.

"This is not a mob story. That's one misconception," he continued. "This is a father-son story."

Gotti said he envisions the film beginning with the final meeting he had with his father in 1999, when he told the senior Gotti he was walking away from the business. At the time, his father was suffering from throat cancer and serving a life sentence in prison for racketeering; he died in 2002 at age 61. The younger Gotti himself was being incarcerated at the time for bribery and extortion.

"It was the first time we'd had contact in seven years — the first time we'd touched each other in seven years," he said. And because it was a government-ordered meeting, all 90 minutes of it were captured on tape.

"Anyone sitting and watching that last video between a father and a son, there's no way they can walk away with dry eyes," he said.

As for casting, he says he doesn't care who plays him. Gotti said Armand Assante's portrayal of his father in the HBO movie was "70 percent accurate ... I never saw him flail his arms or kick garbage cans."

"This man spent the last 10 years of his life in solitary confinement, alone. He spent the last month of his life chained, shackled to a bed, emaciated by cancer," Gotti said. "The man stayed true to his code to his last breath."

Gotti says he's never seen "The Sopranos," but he understands the fascination with the "Godfather" trilogy — at least, the first two films.

"People love it because it's so different from the average, everyday American family, yet maybe not so different," he said. "I make dinner and my family has to be there every Sunday ... I don't care what they do the rest of the week, that's what we do. We're a pretty normal family with kids running all over the place. We have opinions, we have arguments, we have joy."

These days, Gotti is at home in the Long Island town of Oyster Bay, N.Y., with his six children who range in age from 4 to 20. (His youngest, Joe, was born on the first day of jury selection in his third trial.) He said he makes the kids breakfast every morning before his wife takes them to school. Then he showers, heads to his home office and writes.

"Every day I wake up, I'm blessed," he said. "If you told me tomorrow I have terminal cancer and I've got a month to live, I'm ahead of the game. I'm blessed."




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