EXCLUSIVE: The Last Don Standing, the book that recounts the life of Philadelphia Mob Boss Ralph Natale, known as one of the only La Costra Nostra bosses to flip and become a federal witness, is being developed as a feature film and a starring vehicle for Frank Grillo (Kingdom, Purge franchise).
The book from New York Daily News reporter Larry McShane and producer Dan Pearson, compiles Natale’s frank accounts of the murder of Bugsy Siegel, Jimmy Hoffa’s final days, the mob’s takeover of Atlantic City and the boxing matches between Sonny Liston and Muhammad Ali (and in detail) of how the fights were fixed for Liston to purposely take a dive.
Natale came up through the ranks of the mob as the son of a numbers runner in Philly, but in time became part of the upper echelon of the crime syndicate as one of the main men of notorious mob boss Angelo “The Gentle Don” Bruno. His story delves into how they attempted to take over the Atlantic City casino unions. Natale was convicted in the late 1970s of drug smuggling and spent 16 years in prison. Although pressed by law enforcement to give up others, he refused to testify against his crew.
Upon his release, he retook the crime family as his own and what followed was a bloody mob war that left many men murdered in South Philly streets. In short order, he became known as the Don of Philly. He was convicted and sentenced again in 2005 for racketeering, bribery and drug dealing.
At some point, having been loyal to those who did not remain loyal to him, he made the decision to cooperate with federal authorities.
Natale gave unfettered access to McShane and Dan Pearson (whose personal story is worth a movie unto itself). The Last Don Standing: The Secret Life of Mob Boss Ralph Natale drops from Thomas Dunne Books on March 21. McShane is a 35-year newspaperman with the New York Daily News who also authored Cops Under Fire and Chin: the Life and Times of Mafia Boss Vincent Gigante.
Pearson — whose I Married a Mobster had a two-season run at Investigative Discovery Channel and who also recently set up the Leonardo DiCaprio untitled mob film at Showtime — is repping the book via his D4 Entertainment with FolioLit literary agent Frank Weimann.
Grillo, who had great roles in Captain America: Civil War, The Purge and the MMA series The Kingdom, has a starring turn in Netflix’s Wheelman, playing a getaway driver fighting for his life in a car full of cash after a bank robbery goes all wrong. Grillo’s production company War Party, which he has with director Joe Carnahan, is producing Wheelman. He is repped by CAA, Management 360 and attorney Erik Hyman at Loeb & Loeb.