There was a minor uproar surrounding last year’s release of “30 Minutes or Less,” a frothy action comedy from “Zombieland” director Ruben Fleischer, about a pizza delivery boy (Jesse Eisenberg) who some thugs kidnapped and forced to rob a bank with an explosive charge wrapped around his chest. If he doesn’t commit the robbery, the thieves will set off the charge (and reduce his chest cavity to a splattery Jackson Pollock-esque masterwork). The movie was partially based on a real life case, although the filmmakers claimed to have only a passing knowledge of what actually transpired. Well, according to Deadline, the actual tragedy is now being made into a feature film, with a decidedly more dramatic bent.
The film will be based on an upcoming nonfiction paperback original being published by Penguin in November called “Pizza Bomber: The Untold Story of America’s Most Shocking Bank Robbery.” ‘Pizza Bomber’ was written by former FBI Special Agent Gerald Clark and journalist Ed Palattella and the movie will carry with it a somewhat jazzier title in “Collar Bomb Heist.”
The actual case (known to the FBI as “Collarbomb, Major Case #203” – has a certain ring to it, no?) is infinitely more complex and fucked-up than the events in “30 Minutes or Less” (a movie that seems destined to air in a continuous loop every Saturday afternoon on TBS in about five years). In the actual case, which happened near Erie, Pennsylvania, the pizza delivery man, who entered a bank with an explosive charge around his neck, was actually involved in the planning and execution of the heist but was told that the bomb was not real. When the man exited the bank, the bomb detonated, atomizing his head in front of a whole squad of police officers and news vans (you can Google the footage but we suggest you do not). The mastermind of the con, a woman named Marjorie Diehl Armstrong, is currently serving life in prison plus thirty years, for her involvement in the case.
“Collar Bomb Heist,” which is also based in part on Rich Schapiro‘s Wired magazine article, “The Incredible True Story of the Collar Bomb Heist,” has also secured a number of life rights for people who were involved in the case, among them Palatella and Clark, alongside U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan, who prosecuted the case and got Armstrong that severe sentence. Mythology Entertainment, the young company that is currently producing the Roland Emmerich project “White House Down,” and Anyway Entertainment will produce. There are a whole bunch of producers on this thing, most notably “Zodiac” screenwriter James Vanderbilt and “Shutter Island” scribe Laeta Kalogridis.
Depending on who they get as a screenwriter and director, this could be a really exceptional project. It’s a true story more wild and weird than anything you could cook up on your own. And considering what a forgettable wet noodle “30 Minutes or Less” was, we’re sure no one will be making comparisons between the two.