Get ready for Jack Abramoff: The Movie.
The well-sourced Hollywood blogger Nikki Finke reported Friday that Kevin Spacey and director George Hickenlooper were visiting the disgraced former lobbyist in prison -- as part of their research for Casino Jack, which will start filming next month, with the man who once played Keyser Soze in the lead role.= (Variety had reported last August on plans for the project, then known as Bagman.)
The story is described to me as a modern day GoodFellas set in Washington DC that plays like a thriller involving Karl Rove and others in former President George W. Bush's inner circle. Cameras will roll later next month.
Finke also has the scoop on the supporting cast:
- Abramoff crony Mike Scanlon: Hayden Christensen
- Tom DeLay: Spencer Garrett, from Public Enemies
- Adam Kidan, who teamed with Abramoff on the ill-fated Sun Cruz Casinos venture: David Cross from Arrested Development
- Abramoff's wife Pam: The production team is in talks with Tea Leoni.
No word on who'll play Rove -- though Ed Begley Jr. could probably pull it off.
As for the jailhouse meeting itself, Finke's source reports that "Abramoff was in good spirits and very charming with the actor. For two guys who couldn't be more different, they seemed to get along very well."
At one point during the meeting, Spacey was sharing his impersonation of Bill Clinton with Abramoff, while Abramoff shared a pretty good impersonation of Ronald Reagan with Spacey.
Abramoff can't legally profit from the movie. But Finke's source says he met with Spacey and Hickenlooper because he wants to get out his side of the story:
Jack feels he has nothing to lose if he can at least convey his perspective even if it's from inside prison walls. Frankly, he feels like he was thrown under the bus by his fellow Republicans, especially John McCain who wanted to use Jack to help sell himself to the American people as the great reformer. The reality is Jack wasn't doing anything that wasn't happening on K-Street already. In fact it's still happening to this day and everybody knows it.
Of course, Abramoff's links to Hollywood go back over a decade. He once ran a production company which in 1988 made Red Scorpion, a low-budget anti-communist thriller starring Dolph Lundren, and followed it up with a sequel in 1994.
Hickenlooper, a self-proclaimed political junkie, is a cousin of Denver's Democratic mayor, John Hickenlooper.
Casino Jack Casting Call
"If it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing." ~Jack Abramoff, March 2006
Ralph Reed, boy-king of the Christian right. Killer quote, from a letter from Ralph to Jack, 1998: "I need to start humping in corporate accounts! . . . I'm counting on you to help me with some contacts." We're thinking James Spader or Kevin Bacon. Though for a sleaze factor, it's hard to beat Jason Bateman.
Grover Norquist, the President and Founder of the non-profit Americans for Tax Reform-- which he used to wash money for Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed. Though Phillip Seymour Hoffman seems ripe for the part, others have suggested Seth Rogen. Thoughts?
Former (indicted) Republican Congressman from Texas and Abramoff supporter Tom DeLay. Said Abramoff of Delay: "We would sit and talk about opera. We would sit and talk about golf." The fact is, Oliver Platt would make the perfect Delay, but ubiquitous character actor Spencer Garrett has reportedly already accepted the role.
Former senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) lost his 2006 bid for reelection most likely due to his close connections to Abramoff. Money quote: "I wouldn't know this Abramoff from a bale of hay." We're seeing Tom Wilkinson here.
Former Rep. Bob Ney. Oops moment: stuffing his pockets with gambling chips in a London casino, a bribe from a Syrian businessman known as "The Fat Man." Drew Carey, anyone?
Former Congressman from California, John Doolittle. Jack Abramoff once referred to him as a "Hero." Oh, I don't know, maybe the guy who played Jerry Seinfeld's neighbor and nemesis Newman.
Steven Griles, the Former Deputy Interior Secretary and Italia Federici's lover. Brian Cox?
Kevin Ring, the middleman between John Doolittle and John Abramoff from 2002 to 2004. Matthew Fox and Dennis Quaid could each play a good, though very different, Ring.
Italia Federici, the former president of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (and Griles' love interest), pleaded guilty in 2007 to tax evasion and obstruction of Congress for her connection to Jack Abramoff. Drew Barrymore?
I'm a huge geek for movies as well as politics, and I think TPM's fantasy casting is spot-on. I would even accept Matthew Fox in this movie. As for the actual casting, you can't go wrong with David Cross (unless it's Alvin and the Chipmunks).