Exclusive: Both screenwriter James Toback and finance man Salvatore Carpanzano say they never approved a recent announcement naming them Executive Producers of “Gotti: In the Shadow of My Father.” The movie, still lacking a start date, is in financial trouble as I reported exclusively here first weeks ago.
Now I’ve spoken with Carpanzano, who says that he’s never met Toback, and didn’t tell Marco Fiore, the film’s producer, to put his name in public. Carpanzano tells me he represents a $280 million foreign fund that he’d make available for films. But he says that Fiore has no facility for accepting money for “Gotti.” So far, Carpanzano says, he’s lost money on the film– interest on the “blocked” $280 million. He declines to say how much so far, or who he represents. “It’s just old money from Europe,” he explains.
In an unusually frank, wide ranging talk, Carpanzano did tell me that indeed, like Fiore, he spent time in Allenwood State Penitentiary. He logged 33 months there for helping to steal 100 cars from an auto dealer in the mid 1990s. (It’s a long story.) He says he did not meet Fiore there, however. Carpanzano conceded that he’s been at the losing end of many civil lawsuits, and was recently arrested in Scarsdale, New York for driving with a suspended license. Carpanzano managed to go 27 years without being pulled over. He says, “That’s from 1984. I know everyone [in Scarsdale] and they handcuffed me.” However, he insists that his worst days are long behind him, and that he’s regularly setting up deals for independent movie making. No details were given, however.
“I’m a very nice person,” Carpanzano says. “I had trouble, and it was years ago.”
In the case of “Gotti,” Carpanzano seems to be locked in a tug of war with Fiore and another backer, Fay Devlin.
“I met Mark when he was looking for funding,” Carpanzano says, only this past July–ten months after “Gotti” was announced. “We only do large projects. The home office is not here in the US. We do projects in Turkey, large projects. They came to us for funding. The company’s been involved in motion pictures funding. I haven’t before. That’s how I met Fiore. We weren’t friends or knew each other. I believe there are other underlying issues there. Things have to be very clear.”
Carpanzano says he has a total amount of “two hundred million euros allocated to them [Fiore Films]. That’s for other projects also. They have inside problems. I’ve never encountered anything so difficult in my life. This is a lack of cooperation from bankers, from them. There’s something else there. Money is not the issue. It’s the safety of everything involved. There’s a big responsibility there. If you give someone $260, $280 million, you want to make sure you get it back.”
Where is the $280 million now? “I’d rather not say. But it’s available to them. But anyone who can put a project together can have it. Money is available for projects in Hollywood.”
I told Carpanzano I thought people reading this column would be thrilled to know that.
“We have an entertainment division, and we have our formulas. We have money available for people who have their ducks in a row.”
Carpanzano says as a funding agent he simply thought a movie directed by Barry Levinson, starring John Travolta and Al Pacino, was a good investment. “Each one of these actors has a formula. If you take Travolta and Pacino’s formulas, even if everyone says it’s a dog, don’t see it, we get our money back.”
And then there’s the matter of Carpanzano being “outed” by Fiore. He says he has no idea why Fiore named him Executive Producer. “We’re funding agents. But we don’t want our names all over everything. My company would never have allowed it. When I go to the movies, I go to sleep. I have absolutely no interest in John Gotti or John Gotti, Jr.”