The handful of projects that John Travolta was eying back in January included Gotti: Three Generations, an indie flick about the infamous Gambino crime family. Now the multiple Oscar-nominated star has signed on to play John “The Dapper Don” Gotti Sr. in the multi-generational mobster biopic.
Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook, Alpha Dog) will direct the film from a script penned by Leo Rossi – a character actor who’s made a career out of playing Mafia types, contemptible authority figures, and assorted lowlifes onscreen.
THR confirmed Travolta as playing John Gotti Sr., a man who rose to power as the head of the Gambino crime family in 1986 – shortly after he arranged the murder of his predecessor, Paul Castellano. First dubbed “The Dapper Don” for his tendency to flaunt his fortune in public, Gotti Sr. eventually earned the nickname “The Teflon Don” following several failed attempts to convict him of crimes during the 1980s.
Gotti: Three Generations focuses on the relationship between Gotti Sr. and his son… John Gotti Jr., who originally sought to abandon the family business. Gotti Jr. eventually took over operations after his father was convicted and sent to prison; he ended up serving time as well, but managed to avoid being convicted of racketeering charges over the course of four different trials.
Gotti Jr. has reportedly given his blessing to the project, which producer Marc Fiore says is “going to be the new ‘Godfather’.”
It’d be fair to say that almost every mobster drama made since 1972 has aimed to be a successor to The Godfather, in some sense. But what’s curious about Gotti: Three Generations is that it has the title family’s cooperation. That’s not to say it will romanticize the Gotti clan or portray them in a more ambivalent light, but Gotti Jr. IS a Mafia figure, and they’re kind of known for finding a way to make themselves look respectable in the public’s eye.
Cassavetes is actually a decent filmmaker and Rossi has probably done enough in the way of research over the course of his acting career to actually know a thing or two about how to tell an enticing but authentic mob story. Travolta has been delivering pretty much nothing but hammy performances for years now, but that approach may be all the more fitting for a character like “The Dapper Don.”
James Franco was at one point rumored to be eying the role of Gotti Jr., but he’ll be too busy with projects like Oz, the Great and Powerful for the remainder of 2011. The actual Gotti Jr. will be at a press conference with the filmmakers behind Gotti: Three Generations in about two weeks time, so more should be known about the movie by that point.