EXCLUSIVE: William Friedkin will develop to direct The Winter Of Frankie Machine, an adaptation of the 2007 Don Winslow bestselling novel that once had Martin Scorsese and then Michael Mann attached to direct, and Robert De Niro attached to star. The project, which shook free of Paramount some time ago, hasn’t yet been set up anywhere. They’ll start fresh with a script that Winslow will either write or co-write. This comes after Winslow made a monster Fox deal for his current bestseller The Cartel, which continued the characters from Winslow’s 2006 novel The Power Of The Dog. The commitment to book rights and writing fees was around $6 million and Ridley Scott is aboard to direct a script that is being written by Shane Salerno, who co-wrote one of the Avatar sequels with James Cameron. Fox is courting Leonardo DiCaprio to play DEA agent Art Keller, whose blood feud with Mexican cartel kingpin Adan Berrera fuels a story that covers the start of the war on drugs and brings it to the present. For Winslow, getting Friedkin on his book is a dream. He “made the decision to become a writer after seeing The French Connection,” he said. “That how strong of an impact it had on me.”
While the stakes and the budget of The Cartel will be commensurate with what a studio like Fox spends on an impact film with Scott at the helm, Friedkin tells me he is eager to approach Frankie Machine similar to the way he did Killer Joe, that gritty adaptation of the Tracy Letts play that starred Matthew McConaughey and was one of the indie building blocks that got the actor to his Oscar performance in Dallas Buyers Club, followed by the classic HBO series turn True Detective. Friedkin said he wants to make this down and dirty, on a low budget. While those past Paramount incarnations of Frankie Machine bore budgets in the $70 million range, Friedkin wants to do this for under $15 million. The hope is for it to have the bite and burst of violence in films like Eastern Promises and A History of Violence.
The drama revolves around Frank Machianno, a mob hitman who has retired to run a bait shop. He agrees to help the son of a mob boss resolve a dispute with another Mafioso but is forced to turn into Frankie Machine again when he realizes he’s been set up to be killed. Salerno and Winslow will be producers on this, through the Story Factory label. You can read more of Friedkin’s words about this project in the lengthy interview with the director that appears right under this article, where, among other things, Friedkin said that Walton Goggins, the Justified star who moved to Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, is a prototype actor to play the hit man, and that McConaughey would also nail it. They won’t approach an actor, or a financier, until they’ve got a script to show. But this is a seminal tight thriller novel by Winslow, who finally seems poised to get his due in Hollywood.
Friedkin will direct the small screen adaptation his film To Live and Die In L.A., and he’s working on the Mae West biopic for HBO.