Interview: Mafia Son: Warner Brothers Stole My Life Story For Downey Jr. Movie
Mafia son Giovanni Gambino is suing the Warner Brothers Hollywood studio for allegedly stealing his life story and screenplay treatment to make the Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall movie The Judge.
“I’m fighting Warner Brothers full force. I’ve got big time evidence,” Gambino tells Big League Politics.
Gambino is the son of Francesco “Ciccio” Gambino, the late Gambino crime family boss who passed away in prison while serving a sentence for racketeering. For years, the younger Gambino has been trying to get Hollywood — specifically Warner Brothers — to base a film on his experiences during his father’s trial. He says he met with top studio brass and gave them a copyrighted screenplay treatment that they later turned into the Downey-Duvall drama.
“When my father got arrested in 1988, I was in that case every day. My father always wanted me to be a lawyer. When I was in that case, I saw weaknesses in that case, and how the lawyer didn’t really stand up for my father,” Gambino said, noting that he confronted his father’s lawyer after the trial. “[My father] said, ‘I would have loved to have had you as a lawyer.'”
“In 1994, my grandmother dies. When I went to tell my father that my grandmother died, that was the first time I ever saw my father cry. That was the first time I ever saw him emotional. He was always the tough guy,” Gambino said. The mob son was inspired to turn his personal experiences into art. He developed a story about a lawyer son who represents his estranged father in a murder trial.
“1997, I meet with producers and tell them this story. I had Morgan Freeman in mind, I had all these black actors in mind. Denzel Washington. Instead of a mob movie. Make it more of a classical story,” Gambino said. “In 2007, I meet these elite producers from Warner Brothers. The top producers. I told them the story. They loved it. They said, ‘This story’s got legs.’ I said, ‘of course, it’s a classic.'”
The Warner Brothers brass asked for a three-page screenplay treatment, Gambino said, and he produced a treatment entitled The Lawyer.
“In 2008, I give them the three pages, and I copyright it in 2010” with the “Writers Guild and the copyright office…At this point, they love it but I don’t want nobody to steal it.” Gambino said that was the last he heard from Warner Brothers.
“In 2014, I’m sitting down on my couch and I see this movie, The Judge. I said to my wife, ‘Wait a minute. This is my movie!’ I couldn’t believe it. I got a lawyer. Once they saw the copyrights, it was easy to get an L.A. lawyer…The whole entire story was stolen…They took out all the black people I was telling them, and replaced them with these white people. They racially changed it. And they took the whole entire concept of the story.”
Gambino sued Warner Brothers in October 2016 in the Superior Court of the State of California alleging “Breach of Implied Contract” and “Breach of Confidence.” Gambino showed up to a case management conference on March 27 but lawyers for Warner Brothers did not show up. The judge scheduled another case management conference for May 3. Gambino, who lives in Brooklyn, plans to return to Los Angeles to fight his case.
The case seems to hinge on timeline matters. Gambino said his first meeting with Warner Brothers occurred in 2007, but he did not copyright his treatment until 2010. Warner Brothers claims that the treatment for The Judge was written in 2009 — after Gambino’s meeting with studio representatives, but before he copyrighted his treatment.
Warner Brothers lawyers sent a letter to Gambino’s lawyer stating the following: “The complaint alleges that your client registered his treatment with the Writer’s Guild on June 14, 2010, and subsequently sent a copy to Lance Lane who submitted the treatment to Charbel Youssef on or about July 2, 2010. The complaint alleges that Mr. Youssef subsequently shared the treatment with his contacts at Warner. Warner’s script department has no record of receiving a copy of your client’s treatment. Regardless, however, the treatment for “The Judge” was written by David Dobkin and Nick Schenk in 2008 and sold to Warner in September 2008. The writers delivered the first draft of the screenplay to Warner in May 2009…”
But Gambino is firing back, pointing to an interview with Robert Downey Jr.’s wife Susan Downey, who served as a producer on the film. In the October 2014 interview, Susan Downey said that screenwriter Dobkin brought the idea to her and her husband “almost four years ago,” meaning sometime after October 2010, and that it was based on a personal experience that Dobkin had. Susan Downey said that the “Team Downey” production business developed the idea over the next two years. Her story does not mention the fact that Warner Brothers allegedly owned the material already, according to the studio’s legal team.
Gambino is determined to fight the case out in court. “That was my personal story,” the mob son said. He says that he sympathizes with Sylvester Stallone, who is suing Warner Brothers for allegedly defrauding him out of profits on a movie he made in 1993 called Demolition Man.
Warner Brothers did not return a request for comment for this report. Big League Politics has decided to objectively feature the trailer for The Judge, followed beneath it by the full text of Gambino’s treatment for “The Lawyer,” which at one time was also called “Father and Son”:
Treatment for The Lawyer (aka Father and Son) by Giovanni Gambino:
“In 1952, somewhere on a farm in the South, a white woman (Mary) married an Army pilot (Tom). They were a happily married couple. The farm’s caretakers were an African-American couple, George and Nia.
It was during the Korean War, and Tom was called up for active duty to fly missions. During one mission, Tom’s plane crashed and Tom was killed. The death devastated Mary, who not only loved Tom but badly wanted to have children.
As time went by, Mary recognized the void in her life—no children. Then she learned that George and Nia were unable to conceive. Mary offered to have George impregnate her and she would carry the child to birth for George and Nia. At first, Nia resisted, but finally relented because she badly wanted a child. The child was born and a few years later, Mary dies and the farm is passed on to George and Nia.
The boy, Jonathan, as he grew older, had a passion to become a lawyer and move to New York. George took out a loan and with his earnings from the farm sent Jonathan to New York.
After graduating from law school, Jonathan joined a major firm, at which he was appointed, after a successful career, to the top spot by the principal partner, Alec. Then, Jonathan falls in love with Alec’s daughter, Christina.
Jonathan, who looked white, kept his personal history a secret because Alec was a racist. Meanwhile, George tried to keep in touch with his son but Jonathan did not answer George’s many letters.
After months of receiving no word from Jonathan, George became very concerned. Then, Nia is diagnosed with a terminal illness and said her last wish was to see her son. George decided to go to New York.
George went to the address he had before Jonathan ended all communication, and when George rang the doorbell, Christina answered holding a baby (his grandchild).
Christina knew right away who George was and welcomed him into the house. As they were waiting for Jonathan to return home from work, Alec and his wife came to the house. Alec was drunk; Christina was trying to explain to her father the truth but Alec could not handle the truth. A fight broke out during which Alec pulled a gun, fired a shot which accidently went through Christina, critically wounding her, and hit Alec’s wife, killing her. George immediately flees.
The news stories on the murder, based on a false story by Alec, made headlines, reporting George as the suspect and that he was armed and dangerous.
George, tired of running, ultimately turns himself in. Only one man believes his story—Jonathan.
Jonathan represents George but kept the secret that the defendant was his father. George told the story of what happened in the house, but the jury did not believe George and he was convicted.
As he was being taken away, Christina, in a wheelchair, appears in court and asks permission to testify. She does as Alec, who was with her, breaks down in tears and confesses.
Alec, aware of all the pain that he had caused and wanting to redeem himself, works from jail with one of New York’s best doctors who cures Nia from her terminal illness.
Jonathan and Christina move to George’s farm were they have five children—two girls and three boys.
Since the shot that killed Alec’s wife was an accident, the judge sentenced Alec to only three years. After serving his time, Alec visits Jonathan and Christina often, spending lots of time with them. The End.”