There are two AFM project packages being shopped on the same subject: Richard Kuklinski, the notorious New Jersey mob hit man. Nu Image has Boardwalk Empire‘s Michael Shannon to play Kuklinski and Benicio Del Toro and (maybe) James Franco attached to The Iceman, a film that will be directed by Ariel Vromen that is eyeing a production start next summer. Natural Selection CEO Matty Beckerman comes to AFM with a rival project, on which he said he has just closed a deal for life rights of Kuklinski’s wife, Barbara, and Pat Kane, the cop who brought Kuklinski to justice. The project, based on the Philip Carlo book The Ice Man: Confessions Of A Mafia Contract Killer, is being scripted by American History X‘s David McKenna and has Mickey Rourke attached to play Kuklinski. Beckerman is producing and said his Natural Selection will fully fund a movie that will start production in the spring.  No director has yet been set.

The story of Kuklinski is certainly a movie waiting to happen. He was a hulking 6’4″ and 300 pounds, and lived what on the surface was a quiet life as husband and father in New Jersey. But he was actually a contract killer for the Gambino family who, by his own account, killed up to 200 people. He died in prison while serving two life sentences and the way he bragged about his murderous exploits, some felt he was a serial killer who found his calling committing murders for a living. The book that Natural Selection controls was once developed by Allen and Albert Hughes and producers Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Jason Blum.

Since so much has been written on Kuklinski, obtaining life rights makes it easier but isn’t absolutely necessary to make a movie on a subject who’s dead. Speed is most important on dueling projects. A hard lesson was learned on the film Notorious — nobody cared about seeing a second movie about Truman Capote and In Cold Blood after the first one came out and won an Oscar for Capote star Phil Seymour Hoffman. Since then, the first project to make it into production wins, and the other gets snuffed out like so many of Kuklinski’s victims.