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Warner Bros. has picked up the rights to Robert Whiting’s “Tokyo Underworld: The Fast Times and Hard Life of an American Gangster in Japan” and has tapped Frank Baldwin to adapt the true-life crime tome.
Dan Lin is producing via his Warners-based Lin Pictures banner along with veteran producers Harry and Mary Jane Ufland.
Published in 2000, the book centers on Nick Zappetti, an Italian-American from East Harlem who was part of the U.S. occupation forces sent to Japan after World War II. Believing that Tokyo offered certain opportunities, Zappetti had a failed stint as a wrestler, participated in a fumbled diamond heist and was deported. But he returned illegally and opened a pizza joint, which in the mid-’60s became the center of Tokyo’s nightlife, and for the next 15 years, he became an integral part in the yakuza’s rise to power.
ICM-repped Whiting, an ex-pat who lives as a journalist in Japan, has been hired by the studio to serve as a consultant on the project.
Jon Silk of Lin Pictures is co-producing and overseeing. Sarah Schechter and Matt Milam are overseeing for the studio.
Lin was given a copy of the book by Bill Ireton, head of Warner Bros. Japan, during a business trip to Tokyo. By happenstance and upon his return from Japan a few weeks later, he received a call from the Uflands, who were looking for a new home for the book. They had set the book up at DreamWorks, but the option had lapsed.
Baldwin, repped by WMA and Leverage Management, is writing “The Art of Making Money,” a DreamWorks project that Phillip Noyce is attached to direct. That project also is a true-life crime tale, centering on a notorious counterfeiter.
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