Variety

(Page One)

December 26, 2002

 

Taking the wraps off a Hollywood enigma

Bloomsbury buys Russo's Korshak bio

By JONATHAN BING


Investigative reporter Gus Russo has sold a proposal for the first major biography of Hollywood power broker and mob adviser Sidney Korshak to Bloomsbury USA.

Tentatively titled "The Fixer," the Korshak bio is one of two books Russo plans to write on the history of underground crime in America.

He's also working with mob turncoat Henry Hill on a sequel to Hill's autobiography, "Wiseguy," which was the basis for Martin Scorsese's "GoodFellas."

The Hill book was acquired by boutique Gotham publisher M. Evans under the tentative title "From Gangster to Goodfella."

Korshak, who once had close ties to Al Capone's Chicago cartel, figures prominently in Russo's recent book on the Chicago mob, "The Outsider."

But Korshak remains a shadowy figure in Hollywood, best known as a lawyer for labor interests, an influential political insider and a confidante of such execs as Lew Wasserman, Charles Bluhdorn and Robert Evans.

A Nick Tosches article, "The Devil and Sidney Korshak," is being developed as a feature by Evans, Imagine Entertainment co-chair Brian Grazer and director William Friedkin.

But most attempts to chronicle Korshak's trajectory through Hollywood have run aground.

Korshak, who was investigated by the FBI for years but never indicted, was a slick, behind-the-scenes operator who prized anonymity and granted few interviews before his death in 1996.

"He's more secretive than the CIA," Russo told Daily Variety. "I have good sources in Chicago. Hollywood will be the real stumbling block and test."

In his memoir "The Kid Stays in the Picture," Evans recalls how Korshak strong-armed MGM owner Kirk Kerkorian into releasing Al Pacino from his MGM contract so the fledgling thesp could appear in "The Godfather."

Korshak, who also served as an uncredited legal consultant on "Diamonds Are Forever," which was shot in Las Vegas, became known as "the Fixer" for his work as a legal trouble-shooter, resolving seemingly intractable corporate and labor disputes.

Russo said Korshak played a key role in steering Dino De Laurentiis' "King Kong" sequel to the screen; when production was stalled by months of legal sparring between the producer and RKO, Korshak stepped into the fray and brokered an agreement in one sitting.

Russo, who also wrote "Live By the Sword," about the assassination of JFK, said the Korshak book will describe "a sort of corporate life not many Americans are aware of. The real deals are made out of the headlines. They aren't reported. This is the world that Korshak dominated."

"The Fixer" has already been optioned by Romano Shane Filmed Entertainment.

But Russo doesn't expect to deliver the Korshak book for another two years -- after completing his collaboration with Hill.

Russo said he took the commission after Hill's "Wiseguy" collaborator, Nicholas Pileggi, passed. The book is meant to plug some of the gaps in "Wiseguy," focusing on Hill's family and his life under the witness protection program.

Russo is repped by Lukeman Literary Management.


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