EXCLUSIVE: Well, it’s about time for this woman’s story to be told. She was a known figure throughout New York in 1920s Harlem. She fought against other mobsters to maintain her independent business and was also considered an activist for the black community at the time. Her name was Stephanie St. Clair and now Tim Story and Zero Gravity Management are developing a pic at HBO Films about her life.
Nicole Asher has been hired to script the story about the woman who was an immigrant from the Caribbean and ended up running something known as the Policy Bank — which really was the precursor to the American lottery system.
Yes, it was in the time of organized crime and the money flowed, but when mobsters Dutch Schultz and Lucky Luciano and a corrupt police force tried to take over her criminal enterprise she fought fiercely against them and won those battles.
The project is based on book The World of Stephanie St. Clair: An Entrepreneur, Race Woman and Outlaw in the Early Twentieth Century Harlem by Shirley Stewart. Asher, an African American screenwriter, as we noted is penning the screenplay about the woman known as “Madame Queenie” or just “Queenie.” Story (through his The Story Company), Mark Holder and Christine Holder via Zero Gravity and Jeff Field are all executive producers. The co-executive producer is Doug Griffin (The Story Company).
St. Clair, who was portrayed by Cicely Tyson in the 1997 movie Hoodlum , was scrappy and smart and used her education and persistence to rebuff becoming a domestic and went into business for herself: running the numbers game. Bumpy Johnson was her right-hand man.
This is the second project based on St. Clair. Janet Jackson also had one in development at Lifetime with noted director Kenny Leon (Hairspray Live!, The Wiz Live!).
Asher (Coco) is the same writer who wrote the Madame CJ Walker story — a limited (10-episode) series with LeBron James and Octavia Spencer. She is repped by by Frank Wuliger at Gersh, Todd Schulkin at Schulkin Managment and Ron Levin of Levin Law Corp.
Zero Gravity Management also has on its slate Guantanamo Diary, based on the acclaimed international bestseller based on the life of Guantanamo prisoner Mohamadu Slahi, and Kennedy Women, a series based on the NY Times bestseller by Laurence Leamer. The company also is enjoying the success off the Netflix TV series Ozark which stars Jason Bateman.