The Bear Creator Is Directing A Movie Martin Scorsese, Michael Mann, And William Friedkin Almost Made


Prior to his hit series "The Bear," show creator Christopher Storer cut his teeth directing stand-up specials for Bo Burnham (he made "what." and "Make Happy"). His first success with directing scripted dramas came in 2019 with the release of the Hulu series "Ramy." Storer also produced notable indie films like "Eighth Grade" (which Burnham wrote and directed) and Dave Franco's directorial debut "The Rental." "The Bear," a series about a chef who takes it upon himself to revive his late brother's ailing Italian beef sandwich restaurant, has become a big success on Hulu, and it seems that Storer is now looking at a new high-profile job as a result. 

According to Deadline, Storer has been hired as the director of "The Winter of Frankie Machine," based on the 2006 thriller novel by Don Winslow. As of this writing, Storer has no feature-directing experience, although he has been developing a film called "The Last Drop" since at least 2019. As such, he might seem to be a curious choice for the "Frankie Machine" movie, as it is a high-profile thriller that has passed through some pretty prestigious hands. Winslow's novel was optioned for film adaptation as far back as 2005, and Robert De Niro, Michael Mann, William Friedkin, and Martin Scorsese all held it briefly.

Winslow's novel centers on Frank "Frankie Machine" Machianno, a former mafia hitman who is asked to come out of retirement to oversee a meeting between mob syndicates from Los Angeles and Detroit. The meeting, of course, is revealed to be a set-up to assassinate Frank for his many crimes. He escapes being murdered and goes on the run, trying to figure out which of his many, many enemies is trying to kill him. De Niro was initially interested in the main role.

The seven-figure screenplay

Back in 2005, Variety reported that Robert De Niro was to once again play a gangster — which, at the time, he hadn't done in a while. In 2005, De Niro had just appeared in films like "Shark Tale" and "Meet the Fockers," so it seemed that "wise guy" roles — at least human "wise guy" roles — were temporarily behind him. Paramount optioned "Frankie Machine" before the book was even published, and De Niro was committed to playing the title character. In September of 2006, Variety reported that Brian Koppelman and David Levien, the screenwriters of "Rounders," "Knockaround Guys," and "Ocean's Thirteen," had been hired to pen the adaptation. Their pay was in "the low seven figures."

In spite of this, "Frankie Machine" struggled to find its way off the back-burner over the months that followed. Eventually, in 2007 (again, via Variety), Michael Mann boarded the project, with De Niro still interested in starring. Mann and De Niro had, of course, worked together on the 1995 film "Heat" and "Frankie Machine" was to be their big reunion. It seems, however, that Mann was unsatisfied with Koppelman's and Levien's script and hired screenwriter Andrew Tse (the film version of "Watchmen," the "Superfly" remake) to "completely overhaul" it.

Later, at some point between 2007 and 2015, Mann lost interest in the project and left to work on other films like "Public Enemies" and "Blackhat," with De Niro also drifting away. Finally, in 2015, "Frankie Machine" found its way into the hands of William Friedkin, who openly discussed the film in an interview (via Deadline).

I blame The Irishman

It seems William Friedkin, himself no stranger to crime films after directing 1985's "To Live and Die in L.A.," was fascinated by the titular character in "Frankie Machine," as he was an older man not typically seen as the protagonist in gangster movies. Friedkin said of Frankie Machine:

The interviewer suggested the late Steve McQueen, while Friedkin noted that Paul Newman might have been good as well. Ultimately, though, Friedkin felt that either Walton Goggins or Matthew McConaughey could play the part, provided the actors be aged-up with makeup (Goggins was only 44 in 2015, and McConaughey was 46). 

Don Winslow, meanwhile, became incensed that Robert De Niro had left the project to make "The Irishman" with Martin Scorsese, a movie that is also about an aging gangster. (Hmm ...) In an article written for Deadline, Winslow lamented the rise of other similar old-man-mobster projects while "Frankie Machine" languished in early development. It's an entertaining read full of righteous indignation.

Nevertheless, Winslow will finally get his wish. One of the hottest makers of TV is finally going to bring his novel to the screen. Casting has yet to be announced, but how amusing would it be if De Niro expressed interest?

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