EXCLUSIVE: In what will be his first collaboration at New Line in a very long time, Michael De Luca is at the center of a deal for Dukes Of Oxy, an article in the April 23 issue of Rolling Stone about a pair of teen high school wrestlers from Florida who built a multimillion-dollar business smuggling OxyContin and other painkillers. The deal is coming together quickly for De Luca to produce the film with Ansel Elgort and Emily Gerson Saines (Temple Grandin). The hope is for Elgort, whose star launched with The Fault In Their Stars, to play one of the two drug dealers.
The Rolling Stone article was written by Guy Lawson, who also wrote the article that became the basis for Arms And The Dudes, the drama Todd Phillips is directing right now at Warner Bros with Miles Teller and Jonah Hill starring as two guys who got a government contract to arm America’s allies in Afghanistan.
For De Luca, this is the first major project for him to produce at New Line since he left the company after a storied run as production president who championed such films as Boogie Nights, Se7en, Rush Hour, Austin Powers and others. It’s the first project he has aligned without outside Universal Pictures since he left his post as president of production at Sony to make a Universal producing deal that returned him to the Fifty Shades Of Grey franchise. New Line chief Toby Emmerich was in the middle of this with Richard Brener. Both of them came up with De Luca at New Line.
Dukes Of Oxy is in its own way reminiscent of crime sagas like Goodfellas and The Wolf Of Wall Street, only here, the kingpins are impossibly young to have gone as far as they did before finally getting caught. Doug Dodd stumbled into this business with his best friend and wrestling partner Lance Barabas, who also became known as the Little General for his diminutive size and his determination to become a character out of Scarface. They began trafficking and figured things out along the way. Like sending pain pills in vitamin bottles and getting the money returned in stuffed teddy bears that had been hollowed out and filled with cash. When one of the guys got pulled over with drugs, they each faked back injuries so they got painkiller prescriptions so that if they were caught again, it would appear they had done nothing wrong. Mostly, they got into the game of transporting pain pills across the South while law enforcement focused on more serious drugs, and they made a fortune.
The plan is for Elgort to play Dodd, the more rational member of the team. Early on, Dodd turned to a relative who’d done time for dealing drugs and was given a handy set of rules that included not talking on the phone, not dealing with anybody they didn’t know, not using guns and cutting ties with anyone under state or federal investigation. As their empire grew, and they spent much time getting high on their own supply, the duo broke every one of these rules and eventually got caught when law enforcement began to crack down on the runaway problem of a black market for painkillers.
The deal was brokered by Hotchkiss and Associates on behalf of Lawson. Elgort is repped by CAA and Brookside Artist Management.