Here's a final item out of the recently concluded Cannes Film Festival, this one a Chicago crime story to be told by a highly regarded French director.
Earlier this year Robert Pattinson of the "Twilight" franchise began talking about playing the lead in the forthcoming true-crime drama "Idol's Eye," to be filmed here and in Toronto beginning in the fall. Based on Hillel Levin's 2007 Playboy feature "Boosting the Big Tuna," it's about the grisly murders of a group of burglars who, in 1978, made the fatal mistake of stealing a 70-carat diamond from organized crime kingpin Tony "Big Tuna" Accardo.
This week the casting news trended upward, with confirmation that Robert De Niro would be joining the cast. And rumored to be close to committing to the leading female role: Rachel Weisz.
The director is Olivier Assayas, who has made films in several languages, including English, and whose works range in style and genre, from the Chekhovian "Summer Hours" to the two-part, five-hour terrorism mosaic "Carlos," about Carlos the Jackal (real name: Ilich Ramirez Sanchez). The latter, Assayas' sprawling, fascinating biopic, originally aired on French cable television; in 2010 it was screened out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival. Many say it might've won the Palme d'Or that year, had "Carlos" been allowed to compete for the top prize.
For years, various people have been trying to make a movie out of the Big Tuna boost and subsequent retribution killings. One of them was director Todd Field ("Little Children"), who was attached to a script version of the story titled "Hubris."
"I didn't like the (existing) script I read," Assayas told me last week in Cannes, on the rooftop of the JW Marriott hotel (where he was doing interviews regarding his latest completed film, "Clouds of Sils Maria" starring Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart. "Sils Maria" competed in this year's festival). "It was OK, but you know...for some other director. And yet it was great material. I couldn't believe no one had explored it."
Assayas began exchanging emails with investigative reporter Levin. "I thought: Maybe I could get into the story somehow if I had someone in Chicago to help me with it," the director said. "It's not my culture; it's not my city; I needed a guide, someone who could vouch for the truth of what I was writing about." With Levin on board as advisor and researcher, Assayas began gathering a formidable load of background material.
"It's how I did the work on 'Carlos,'" he said. "We did extensive research on every single aspect of the story. And then I started writing."
The budget for "Idol's Eye" falls in the mid-$20 million range, Assayas said. He's already visited Chicago twice for location scouting. He'll also be filming in Toronto. And we should see the results sometime in 2015.
Movies on the radio: This weekend Michael joins "Filmspotting" cohost Josh Larsen for a show about "X-Men" and other, less superheroic movie teams 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday on WBEZ-FM (91.5).
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