EXCLUSIVE: Copper comes from Arizona, and Peaches from Georgia, but if we had to rewrite the lyrics to the Blossom Dearie standard “Rhode Island is Famous For You,” you can add film production to the latter 1,214 square mile sized state. Much of that has to do with producer Chad A. Verdi who over the last eight years has pumped out 20 features with notable homegrown titles like 2016’s Bleed for This and the upcoming Grindstone Entertainment Group/Lionsgate crime pic Vault, both which shine a spotlight on his native Rhode Island.
Vault is one of six projects that Verdi has in his 2019-2020 pipeline, which also includes Martin Scorsese’s upcoming Netflix movie The Irishman this fall. The pic reps Verdi’s fifth film with The Departed Oscar-winning director and producer Emma Tillinger Koskoff. Verdi’s previous EP credits with Scorsese include Silence, The 50 Year Argument, and the 2017 Amelie van Elmbt movie The Elephant and the Butterfly which played last year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
Vault, which opens in Rhode Island on June 7 before expanding to theaters and multi-platforms on June 14 “has been a passion project for eight years for my wife Michelle Verdi and I and it’s now becoming a reality,” says Verdi. Inspired by true events, the movie follows a group of small-time crooks who in 1975, attempt to pull off one of the biggest heists in American history: stealing more than $34 million from the Rhode Island mafia. The film was directed by Tom DeNucci, co-written with B. Dolan and stars Theo Rossi (Marvel’s Luke Cage, Sons Of Anarchy), Clive Standen (Taken, Vikings, Everest), Emmy winner Samira Wiley (Handmaid’s Tale) and Oscar nominee Chazz Palminteri as mob boss Raymond Patriarca, along with Golden Globe winner Don Johnson (Django Unchained, Miami Vice). Verdi produces with Nick Koskoff, Michelle Verdi, Matthew J. Weiss , and Ryan Murphy. Emma Tillinger Koskoff serves as EP.
Like Vault, Bleed for This was another Rhode Island tale Verdi brought to life about one of the state’s underdog champs: lightweight and middle lightweight boxer Vinny Paz. Here’s a boxer who collapsed due to near-fatal hydration following his battle with Roger Mayweather in 1988. Soon after becoming a two-time world champ, Paz was in a near-fatal car crash in 1991. Nearly paralyzed with a severe neck injury, Paz found himself with four screws and halo-healing device strapped to his body. Doctors advised him never to box again. But the Pazmanian Devil secretly lifted weights despite the pain and returned to the ring within a year to win three more titles, twice beating Roberto Duran (who was the subject of the movie Hands of Stone). Miles Teller played by Paz with Aaron Eckhart portraying his outspoken trainer. The pic made its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in September 2016.
For Verdi, Bleed for This and Vault are two quintessential Rhode Island big screen stories he has steered over the last decade, part of an eight title canon in which the state was a backdrop. One of the early movies Verdi produced was Michael Corrente’s (another R.I. native) 2011 feature Loosies. That pic written by and starring Twilight‘s Peter Facinelli follows a young pickpocket in the New York subways who is confronted by a woman with whom he had a one night affair. Rhode Island offers up to a 30% tax credit, and what Verdi loves about is that “it’s very small and very easy to get around.” His productions use mostly Rhode Island crews, and if needed will draw from below the line production crews in Boston, New York and even Los Angeles. “If it were up to me, I would never film anywhere else,” says Verdi about R.I.
Another Verdi production set to be lensed in Rhode Island (and Boston) early next year is Jungle Room, which marks the producer’s reteam with Vault filmmaker Tom DeNucci from a screenplay written by B. Dolan and Matt Weiss. In a near-future where negative impulses are monitored and brain chemistry is under constant surveillance, a down on his luck ‘Reality Writer’ becomes fascinated with a violent new game. Chad and Michelle Verdi will produce alongside Nick Koskoff, with Chad Verdi Jr serving as EP.
Other titles on Verdi’s slate include Wander which will film in New Mexico in late June with April Mullen directing from a screenplay penned by Tim Doiron. Eckhart teams with Verdi again after Bleed for This playing Arthur Bretnik, a mentally unstable conspiracy theorist and private eye with a traumatic past. After being hired to investigate a possible murder cover up in the small town of Wander, Arthur is plunged into a world of lies and deceit, as he quickly suspects the murder may be part of the same ‘conspiracy cover up’ that caused the death of his daughter. Increasingly paranoid, Arthur’s sanity is tested as he attempts to filter fact from fiction and solve the case, all the while questioning if he is a pawn in a much bigger game.
There’s also Malevolence currently in pre-production in Rome, Italy. Pic was written by Chee Keong Cheung and Oliver Morran with Dolph Lundgren directing, the Rocky IV actor’s sixth directorial. Lundgren stars as Brandon Jones, an undefeated underground fighter of exceptional talent who doesn’t know how to lose – but he is ordered to do just that for a crucial high stakes fight. Failing to follow through on this command, a merciless punishment is exacted, resulting in the brutal murder of his wife and daughter, and Brandon himself brain damaged, a shadow of the man he once was. With the help of his best friend and trainer, Dutch, Brandon must rebuild himself mentally and physically to take revenge on those that tore his family apart and left him for dead. In his way stands a cartel of cold-blooded fighters, a corrupt police force headed by Detective Cain (Scott Adkins), and the limitless resources of mob boss Vincent, a ruthless and twisted individual, who holds sway over the city.
Verdi has the Lennox Lewis boxing documentary Undisputed in post production and scheduled for release next year. The doc from director G.S. Koch gives a ringside seat inside the mind of the heavyweight champ fighter. Lewis was the seventh Olympic gold medalist to become a world heavyweight champion after Floyd Patterson, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Forman, Leon Spinks and Michael Spinks. He holds the distinction of being the first professional heavyweight champion to win a gold medal in the super-heavyweight category which wasn’t created until the 1984 Summer Olympics. In 2002, Lewis defeated Mike Tyson in one of the most highly anticipated fights in boxing history. The following year, Lewis defeated Vitali Klitschko in a bloody encounter before retiring in 2004.
In the reported $140M production The Irishman, based on Charles Brandt’s novel I Heard You Paint Houses, Robert De Niro plays former WWII vet turned mob hitman Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran who handled more than 25 mob hits including taking out Teamsters Union boss Jimmy Hoffa. Hoffa disappeared in 1975 before legally being declared dead in 1982 and he had a long history with organized crime. “I heard you paint houses” are the first words Hoffa ever spoke to Sheeran. The pic’s high cost comes from the technology involved in rendering stars De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci reportedly 30 years younger (not unlike Jeff Bridges in Disney’s reboot of Tron). The Irishman reps the first Scrosese major motion picture to hit a streaming portal such as Netflix. The pic is expected to receive a theatrical release like the streamer’s three-time Oscar winner from this year, Roma, but it’s not clear on how wide. Speaking to the state of independent films in a theatrical-streaming sphere, Verdi says, “It’s my opinion that technology has changed the way people view film. In today’s age it’s all about instant gratification, when people want something, they want it now. So if you can’t give them what they want, when they want it, you won’t make it in this business. There are exceptions, like Marvel, Disney that have a built in audience, but today that’s just not the norm.”