Gotti knew his way around assassination plots. He didn’t bat an eye at this proposition. “It’s business. It’s business,” he later explained to me. “I respect that.”
Fiore’s Hollywood career was hanging by a thread. But then, in a plot twist from an entirely different kind of movie, a fairy godfather dropped out of the clear blue sky. Ted Field, 60, is a Hollywood legend—heir to the Marshall Field fortune, former race-car driver, famed playboy, music impresario, and producer of more than 50 movies. Field knew just what to say to Fiore and Devlin, who flew to meet him the day that Gotti received the call from Burnham. “I can’t believe you guys got this far on your own,” he told them. “You should’ve had more respect from the get-go.”
Fiore had longed to hear just those words. “That was a feather in my cap as a businessman,” said Fiore. “To hear that from Ted, not just because he’s from Hollywood but also because he’s a billionaire.”
And then, too, Fiore had been changed by his adventures—he was eager to let someone else run the show. “Marc is allowing me to navigate the Hollywood system,” Field explained diplomatically. A good thing, since Levinson won’t even respond to Fiore’s e-mails. The project is starting over again with a new screenwriter, Lem Dobbs (coming off Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire), hand-picked by Field and, this time, a foreign sales agent, IM Global. And Fiore is bragging that he’s got a line on a new $250 million, though Field will believe it when he sees it.
One day last month, Fiore greeted me in his office suite in Manalapan. The offices were empty—no one works there except Fiore. Fiore had hung movie posters on the wall, including Saturday Night Fever with Travolta in the famous white hip-hugging jeans, and a framed front page of the Post: don travolta, it said. He also had a poster of the Gotti movie, though Lohan’s name was covered by a pink Post-it—and Joe Pesci’s was blacked out. He’d been cast as Senior’s best friend but is suing after Levinson changed his part.
Fiore led me down the hall, stopping off in a storeroom to show me stacks of DVDs from the Stuttering John movie—the distributor said they’d sold zero, though Fiore disputed that. He’d purchased two. We moved to his corner office, with a view of the parking lot. Fiore was wearing a New York Yankees T-shirt and dark gym shorts. “It’s Hollywood,” he said with a shrug—in Hollywood, he’d learned, the most powerful people dress casually. He folded his arms on his glass-topped desk. “Quite frankly, our goal is to build an empire,” he told me. Then he confided a dream, the one that had sustained him through all the setbacks. In the dream, he imagined himself onstage at the Academy Awards. He’d already written his acceptance speech, he told me. “It might be the best speech ever at the Academy Awards,” he said. He planned to settle some scores. “I might expose some people. I’d be afraid of me,” he said and laughed.
It was late afternoon at Da Mikele. The evening crowd hadn’t arrived yet, and Gotti had the run of the place. We’d covered a bunch of subjects, but as our time ended, conversation circled back to the one that engaged him most: the fork in the road. “I was on that path”—to be a mobster like his father—“and I had to go in a different direction. I had to change my whole entire life,” he told me. “Like my whole life is a blooper.” And so he’d changed. “My friends are mostly doctors and lawyers today,” Gotti said, sounding surprised. “That’s who I socialize with: professional people, along with my wife, my children.” For Gotti, the life of the gangster now exists mainly in the movie he hopes to make. And so, as the espresso disappeared, Gotti got to storyboarding again. “A lot of writers miss the wedding scene.” The Godfather, of course, begins with a wedding, but in Junior’s film, called Gotti: In the Shadow of the Father, the wedding is Junior’s. It took place at the Helmsley Palace in 1992, and in honor of the day, Leona Helmsley draped a twenty-foot Italian flag outside the hotel. Gotti’s best man was his first soldier, who was later murdered. Every New York family had its own table, each mobster dressed in a tux. There was lobster and Cristal. Gangsters handed Junior envelopes of cash—a haul of $348,000—and then lined up at Senior’s table to pay homage, all the while plotting to settle scores. “That scene will be in there,” said Gotti confidently. “We want something Godfather-esque.”
Fiore has finally seen the movie.