After being dropped by distributor Lionsgate just ten days before its set release, the seemingly ill-fated John Travolta-starring John Gotti biopic might get a new lease on life, at least if its producers’ big gamble pays off. A new report from Deadline holds that the film left Lionsgate because of release plan squabbles — it was set to be released by Lionsgate Premiere (which specializes in specialty and limited releases), and its producers were eager to take it to a wide release. The outlet reports that “there was a buy-back clause in the distribution agreement, so the producers exercised it. It was never a matter of Lionsgate dumping the film.”
Still, that’s a hell of a last minute change to make, especially when the film’s release date and plan have been locked for months now. Deadline adds that an outside investor has back the film “so that it could get a wide release in May, and Lionsgate was generous to let the film go.”
“Gotti” was directed by “Entourage” star Kevin Connolly, and boasts a supporting cast that includes Kelly Preston, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Stacy Keach, and Spencer Lofranco.
As IndieWire reported yesterday, The film reportedly offered Travolta a meaty role, as it tracks not just Gotti’s rise to fame as the head of the Gambino crime family, but also offers a closer examination of how his life of crime impacted his son, John Gotti Jr. (Lofranco), who ultimately chose to leave life as a “made man.” The film is at least partially based on Jr.’s own story, as he sold his life rights to the project years ago.
The film was written by Lem Dobbs and Leo Rossi, and was finally greenlit nearly two years ago after a lengthy — and often fraught — development period. Over the years, a number of actors were attached to the project, including Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Lindsay Lohan, and Anthony Hopkins, along with directors Nick Cassavetes, Joe Johnston, and Barry Levinson, though financing continually proved to be a problem.
The film started production in July of 2016.