EXCLUSIVE: Entertainment One has set up Insane, a film based on the wild life of Eddie Antar, the late consumer electronics king who wound up serving six years in prison for perpetrating one of the greatest securities frauds in history. Peter Steinfeld, who wrote 21, has written the script and an exclusive rights deal has been made with Sam E. Antar, Eddie Antar’s criminal co-mastermind and cousin. eOne will finance. Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, Peter Steinfeld, DeShawn Schneider, Mandy Stein will produce with Sam E. Antar serving as an Associate Producer.
eOne is currently seeking a director with plans to start production next spring. Michael McGrath will oversee with Schechter for Berlanti Productions.
Anyone of a certain age who grew up in the New York metropolitan area had the discount appliance/stereo/TV chain Crazy Eddie burned into their retinas by the endless in your face commercials featuring a frenzied pitchman (played by comedian Jerry Carroll) who promised the lowest prices that were “In-sa-a-a-a-ane.”
Antar opened his first store in Brooklyn, grew quickly to 43 stores, and then briefly became a Wall Street sensation when he took the company public. Those were fueled by ads that were considered groundbreaking, as subtle as a used car salesman, and frenzied enough to obscure trouble in the back room. The trouble was, Antar had been skimming money and falsifying inventory to inflate stock value.
Losing control of his company in a hostile takeover, Antar went on the lam after the new owners uncovered his financial shenanigans and the SEC charged him with stock fraud. He fled to Israel — where he’d deposited millions of dollars — only to be extradited three years later. His brazen manner became his undoing: told in Switzerland that his account had been frozen, an outraged Antar went to the cops nearby, who soon figured out what was happening and put him in cuffs. Antar ultimately served a prison term that ended in 1999 and was ordered to pay $150 million in fines. Crazy Eddie was sold and the buyers were unable to recover from the fraud they would painfully uncover, and the whole thing went bankrupt.
I wrote about a previous iteration of this film — Steinfeld was the writer — when Danny DeVito was going to direct it. Growing up in New Jersey, DeVito was fascinated by the rise and fall of the chain, and of Antar. He made agreements with Eddie Antar to tell his story, but that put him in a bind when he got called by attorneys of victims who’d been defrauded by the discount king. DeVito had made promises to Antar but believed the lawyers’ promise that if Antar profited, it would create legal issues. Antar died in 2016.
His cousin, Sam E. Antar, was CFO of Crazy Eddie and was complicit in its fraud. Much like Frank Abagnale Jr of Catch Me If You Can, Antar is now a forensic accountant who helps uncover fraud scams like the one he was part of back in the ’80s. He is associate producer of Insane. The movie will tell the story from his vantage point, a young cousin with an accounting degree brought into a family business and who cooked the books to hide the skimming that was going on. All this was uncovered after Eddie Antar cashed in his shares for $74 million and then left the country. Sam E. Antar has been outspoken about his misdeeds — lying under oath to protect family members before finally cooperating with prosecutors — so this take on the movie could be interesting.
“Insane is one of those unique stories that if it was not based on fact, you might not believe it was actually true,” said Nick Meyer, eOne’s President of Film. “Eddie Antar was a larger than life persona whose exploits make for an incredible narrative to build a film around and we anticipate great interest in it from audiences around the globe.”
Steinfeld is repped by Mosaic and attorneys Jamey Cohen and Melanie Cook at Ziffren. Endeavor Content is shopping U.S. rights.
Now I can’t get these Crazy Eddie spots out of my mind. Here are a few more: