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James Cox to direct 'Billionaire Boys Club'

Indie crime thriller is based on a true story

James Cox will direct the indie true crime thriller "Billionaire Boys Club," based on the true  story about a group of wealthy young men in Los Angeles during the '80s who resorted to murders after their social and investment club went sour.

Holly Wiersma is producing the film, which is budgeted at less than $15 million. A late-summer/early fall start date is planned.

The BBC was composed of young graduates of the Harvard School for Boys (known today as Harvard-Westlake School) who schemed to use investor money to support their lavish lifestyles. When funds ran short in 1984, founding member Joe Hunt and others resorted to extortion, kidnapping and, ultimately, two murders. Trials and convictions ensued. Hunt, who represented himself, remains behind bars.

Cox, who grew up in the Bay Area, said he always has been fascinated by the story and said that the incident is "ingrained in my childhood memories." He remembers following the trials, watching the "hugely hyped" 1987 NBC telefilm that aired during the midst of them and hearing about the one juror who was "bounced" from the proceedings because he had seen it.

Cox and his brother Stephen spent four months researching the events and another four months writing the screenplay, poring over court documents, transcripts and media articles.

"As soon as I started doing research, I discovered there were certain events that no one had written about or discussed before," Cox said. "For one, brief, shining spot, there was a place called Camelot. These men were truly on the verge of a billion dollars. These were all young men, coming up through Beverly Hills, dealing with the pressure of being part of the L.A. elite. Joe Hunt was a Svengali who seduced them."

The Cox brothers created a composite character based on several of the BBC members. This character falls under Hunt's influence and is led through a series of white collar deceptions that evolve into fraud. He must decide between making two different choices that will alter his life.

"As we were writing this, I thought, 'What if 'Wall Street' became 'Alpha Dog' halfway through?" Cox said. "We were beholden to the truth but knew we needed to do a composite to give us a vessel to sail through this sewage."

The project reunites Cox and Wiersma, who worked on the 2003 L.A. crime drama "Wonderland" written and directed by Cox.

"I remember watching the telefilm in my parent's living room and being fascinated by the story," Wiersma said. "The Ponzi scheme feels very relevant in terms of the Bernie Madoff scandal."

Wiersma, who next produces the Edward Norton/Robert De Niro starrer "Stone," just wrapped shooting the indie feature "Son of No One" starring Channing Tatum and Al Pacino.

Cox is repped by CAA.