Plans to film Gotti biopic in Queens ruffles feathers

Plans to film Gotti biopic in Queens ruffles feathers
John Travolta (r.) will play the father of John Gotti Jr. (l.) in an upcoming biographical film about the Gotti family. AP Photo/Evan Agostini
By Joe Anuta

A new film detailing the lives of the Gotti family is set to be filmed in New York, but some people want the production company to take its business elsewhere.

“You’re going to remind a lot of people what it was like to live under the reign of terror of the Gotti and Gambino family,” said Curtis Sliwa, a Howard Beach native and founder of the Guardian Angels.

Sliwa recently sent a letter to the mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting requesting that the film be denied permits to shoot within the city limits.

“You don’t want to accept Gambino and Gotti blood money,” he said. “You don’t want to stain [Howard Beach] any more than it already has been.”

The film is set to explore the relationship between John “The Dapper Don” Gotti Sr. — the late boss of the Gambino crime family, who is also known as “The Teflon Don” because attorneys had trouble making charges stick — and his son, John Gotti Jr.

Prosecutors accused John Gotti Jr. of ordering the murder of Sliwa after he was shot in a taxi in Manhattan in June 1992, but juries were unable to reach a verdict at three trials where Sliwa testified.

Fiore Films is producing the movie and has cast John Travolta to play Gotti Sr. Lindsay Lohan is also rumored to be playing the part of Gotti Jr.’s wife. Travolta has reportedly said the tale of the Gotti family is one of the greatest untold American stories.

But Sliwa said he thinks the story will not stay true to history, since Gotti Jr. sold it to the production company.

“It’s going to be a love-fest with the Gottis and Gambinos,” he said. “[The Gottis] continue to poison the well water of Howard Beach even though they have gone on to their own Ponderosa Ranch in Long Island.”

But the entire film is already scheduled to be shot in New York, although specific locations have not been determined, according to Steve Honig of Fiore Films.

And he said nobody should judge the film before it is finished.

“It’s confusing to me how people could comment on a film that let alone they haven’t seen, but a film whose script is not even completed,” he said. “They make the assumption the film is probably going to be like this or the film is probably going to be like that. It is really unfair and, in most cases, erroneous.”

Instead of a typical shoot ’em-up mobster movie, the Gotti film focuses on the relationship between father and son, Honig said.

“The thrust of the film is the relationship between the family members,” he said.

In addition, he said New Yorkers should be happy that film production is coming to the city.

“I would think Fiore Films would be lauded for keeping the production in this county and in New York City,” he said.

And state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) said a New York story should be filmed in the city regardless of the subject matter.

“It upsets me more when they take something that is supposed to be in New York City but film it in Montreal,” Addabbo said. “Whenever we film anything good or bad in New York City, it means jobs and revenue for the city.”

And whether Howard Beach likes it or not, the Gotti family is part of the neighborhood.

“You can’t misinterpret the facts. John Gotti was a resident of Howard Beach,” he said. “This is a part of our neighborhood’s history.”

But he said it is not the only part of the history.

“There are so many other things that make Howard Beach a good community, I don’t think one film can take that away,” he said.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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