‘Idol’s Eye’ production shut down: Robert De Niro, Robert Pattinson and Rachel Weisz to have starred in Olivier Assayas’ action-thriller
Production on screenwriter-director Olivier Assayas’ action-thriller Idol’s Eye, which was to have starred two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro (The Godfather: Part II, 1974; Raging Bull, 1980), Robert Pattinson (the Twilight movies, The Rover), and Oscar winner Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener, 2005), has been shut down, officially due to financing woes. Michael Benaroya’s Beverly Hills-based Benaroya Pictures announced the bad news on Nov. 3.
Due to the criteria for financing not being met by producers, Benaroya Pictures has formally decided to discontinue financing the motion picture titled Idol’s Eye. The company cannot continue to put its investment at risk and has been forced to stop cash flowing [to] the production.
This is something all of us wanted to avoid, but due to the producers missing a number of financing criteria deadlines that were mutually established by all parties, we were left with no other options. Benaroya Pictures plans to retain the rights of the film and move forward with production on the picture after we generate a revised script and assemble a new filmmaking team.
‘Idol’s Eye’ producers
The statement by Benaroya Pictures doesn’t specify which producers missed “a number of financing criteria deadlines.” According to Variety, Idol’s Eye was being “developed and produced” by Charles Gillibert, who had recently worked with Olivier Assayas on the Cannes Film Festival entry Clouds of Sils Maria, starring Juliette Binoche, Chloë Grace Moretz, and Robert Pattinson’s Twilight Saga co-star Kristen Stewart.
Besides Gillibert’s CG Cinéma and Benaroya Pictures, others involved in the production of Idol’s Eye were reportedly Bluegrass Films’ Scott Stuber, Film 360’s Scott Lambert, and Alexandra Milchan. Production on the film had been initially slated to commence last October in Toronto and Chicago; following delays, filming – as per Variety – was just about to start in Toronto.
In the coming days, International Film Trust, a sales company co-founded by Benaroya, was to have attempted to sell international rights to Idol’s Eye at the American Film Market in Santa Monica, California.
‘Idol’s Eye’ based on ‘Playboy’ article
Set in Chicago’s mob-ruled underworld, Idol’s Eye is based on Hillel Levin’s 2007 Playboy article “Boosting the Big Tuna,” about a group of robbers brutally murdered after having burglarized the home of local mob boss Tony Accardo (a.k.a. “Big Tuna” and/or “Joe Batters”) in 1978. Note: IMDb synopses of Idol’s Eye have the burglars robbing a pawnshop serving as a front for the mob boss’ business, while an online source has the robbers breaking into a porn store.
Although I could find no confirmation, in Idol’s Eye Robert De Niro would likely have played Accardo (or a character based on him), while Robert Pattinson would have been cast as the John Mendell character – the leader of the gang of home or pawnshop or porn store robbers. And I’m not sure if there’s any connection to the film, but throughout the ’70s Chicago jeweler Harry Levinson owned the famed Idol’s Eye diamond. (Update: There is a connection. See a more thorough Idol’s Eye synopsis further below.)
As an aside, it’s unclear why Benaroya Pictures wants to revise the Idol’s Eye screenplay before assembling “a new filmmaking team.” Larry Richman has been tweeting about the Idol’s Eye debacle, mixing speculation (about what may have happened) with facts about film production.
As found on the IMDb, besides Robert De Niro, Robert Pattinson, and Rachel Weisz, Idol’s Eye was to have featured the following:
Ace Hicks. Bo Martyn. Salvatore Inzerillo. Shane Daly. Breeanna Booth. PJ Lazic. Jim Cantafio. Stephen Badalamenti. Egidio Tari. Anna Douglas. Paul James Saunders. Luke Vitale.
Benaroya Pictures’ movies
Benaroya Pictures’ productions include:
- The little-seen romantic comedy The Romantics, starring Katie Holmes, Anna Paquin, Josh Duhamel, and Adam Brody.
- J.C. Chandor’s Oscar-nominated (Best Original Screenplay) drama Margin Call, with Jeremy Irons, Paul Bettany, Zachary Quinto, and Kevin Spacey.
- Lee Daniels’ box office misfire The Paperboy, with Zac Efron, John Cusack, Matthew McConaughey, and Nicole Kidman.
More recently, Benaroya Pictures was involved in the production of John Krokidas’ modest box office performer Kill Your Darlings, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Dane DeHaan.
The company is also behind Werner Herzog’s upcoming Queen of the Desert, toplining Nicole Kidman, James Franco, and Idol’s Eye would-be star Robert Pattinson as T.E. Lawrence a.k.a. Lawrence of Arabia.
‘Idol’s Eye’ plot
Robert Pattinson was to have played John Mendell, a master “wire man” – or a thief able to deactivate the most intricate burglar alarms. He is the leader of the gang that, in an attempt to steal the legendary diamond Idol’s Eye, robs the upscale pawnshop belonging to jeweler and pawnbroker Harry Levinson. They can’t find the diamond, but manage to take with them other pieces of jewelry.
However, Levinson is on good terms with Chicago king mobster Tony Accardo (the Robert De Niro character). Therefore, Accardo gets his men to recover the stolen jewelry.
Undaunted, while Accardo is on vacation in California, Mendell and his gang raid Accardo’s home, trying to re-steal the retrieved jewels. When Accardo returns to Chicago, he isn’t happy. He expresses his unhappiness by having the thieves and potential witnesses brutally murdered.
Crime does pay
In real life, proving that crime does very much pay if you’re powerful enough, Accardo was never sent to prison for the murders he ordered. He died at age 86 in 1992.
I should add that Harry Levinson would eventually be found murdered, after suffering multiple stab wounds, at his Chicago home in 1991. He was 94. A man named Michael Gonzalez, already in prison for other crimes, would be convicted of Levinson’s murder two decades later.
At the time the Idol’s Eye casting of Robert Pattinson and Robert De Niro was announced at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, Hillel Levin wrote the following on his blog, which helps to explain the “porn store robbery” mentioned above:
De Niro will play Accardo, who ruled Chicago’s mob for five decades. Despite the fact that he’s hardly a household name, I would argue that Accardo was America’s most important organized crime figure in the twentieth century. He not only influenced politics in the Windy City but also corrupted wide swaths of the union movement (e.g. Teamsters and Laborers), and probably did more to build the Las Vegas Strip (mostly with Teamster pension funds) than anyone else. He features prominently in my play, Assassination Theater.
By the time of the burglary, he had become practically an establishment figure in Chicago – unusually accessible to the neighbors in his wealthy suburb, courtly to the power elite, with whom he occasionally rubbed shoulders, but still bone-chillingly ruthless with anyone who crossed his path in the criminal world – as Mendell eventually found out. It will be fascinating to see De Niro’s approach to the part. One funny note: the dispute between Accardo and Mendell centers on the burglary of a high-end pawn shop. Somehow, in the mix of accents at Cannes, “pawn” got turned into “porn.” I hope the reality here does not disappoint.
Olivier Assayas gone from the project
In a later Idol’s Eye post, Levin elaborated:
None of the characters in this story – from Accardo (who will be played by Robert De Niro) to John Mendell (the burglar leader who will be played by Robert Pattinson) were anything like the Hollywood mobster stereotypes, and I think that’s why Olivier may be the perfect filmmaker to bring them to life.
Unfortunately, at least for the time being the “perfect filmmaker” is no longer attached to project.
Olivier Assayas himself said Idol’s Eye would be made along the lines of Carlos, the tale of Carlos the Jackal (played by Edgar Ramírez) and one of the best-received productions of the early 21st century.
Assayas also compared Idol’s Eye to Michael Mann’s similarly themed 1980 crime thriller Thief, a critically well-received box office dud starring James Caan, Tuesday Weld, Robert Prosky, and Willie Nelson. Thief was based on a book by Frank Hohimer a.k.a. jewel thief John Allen Seybold.
Olivier Assayas quote found in Film Comment.
Idol’s Eye plot and general film information via the fan site http://www.idolseye-film.com.
Nicole Kidman and Zac Efron The Paperboy image: Millennium Films.
Olivier Assayas image via Sortie d’Usine.