By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act December 12, 2012 at 6:27PM
Interesting choices here to write and direct this film.
First, a recap on a project we first alerted you to in early October, which is now definitely moving ahead.
The short story goes... Easy Rider producer Bert Schneider, was a pal and supporter of the Black Panthers, even reportedly giving them $10,000 way back when, to help with the organization's initiatives.
It's said that Black Panther leader Huey Newton even became quite close to Schneider, some times staying at Schneider's home for weeks at a time, in the early 1970s.
As reports you can find on the web state, in 1974, Newton, on bail for an assault charge, was accused of killing a 17-year-old prostitute. He jumped bail and hid out with Schneider, who eventually would devise a plan to smuggle Newton out of the country, to Cuba, where he could seek political asylum.
The plan was to sail through the Panama Canal to Mexico, where Newton would be picked up, after Schneider smuggled him across the border.
Well, needless to say, everything didn't quite go as planned (Newton did return eventually to face charges, and we know what happened to him eventually). But I'll refer you to a lengthy Salon.com article, titled True Hollywood story: The producer and the Black Panther, which goes into lots of detail about the relationship between Schneider and Newton, and much more. Read it HERE.
If anything, regardless of where your POV lies, it's a fascinating read documenting an interesting period in our history.
Thanks to all the excitement and acclaim over Ben Affleck's Argo (which I liked, but think is over-praised), itself based on a somewhat similar explosive mixture of Hollywood and politics, a film based on the above series of events involving Netwon, was being shopped around in Hollywood when we first wrote about in October; but it's now been picked up by Sony Pictures-based producer Matt Tolmach, who has hired Little Miss Sunshine‘s Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris to direct, with Joshua Bearman (he wrote the Wired Magazine article that inspired Ben Affleck's Argo) and Jim Hecht (Ice Age: The Meltdown) penning the script adaptation.
Like I said, an interesting writer/director team of talents there hired to work on this particular project, given their resumes (Joshua Bearman aside).
According to Deadline, the project is titled The Big Cigar, which is based on an article in the December issue of Playboy magazine, and it details how Easy Rider producer Bert Schneider conjured up a film to help smuggle Black Panthers co-founder Huey Newton out of the U.S. and into Cuba to avoid being tried for murder and another violent crime.
I assume the December issue of Playboy is out currently... I'm not a subscriber, so I haven't read the article. Anyone have? I couldn't find it online.
But I can hear your arguments already, loud and clear... "Oh great Tambay - another film centered on a black historical figure's struggles, but as a character in what's really a white person's story!"
I know, I know... as Deadline notes, the plan is to have the story revolve around Schneider. So, feel free to lower your expectations now.
However, a lot still has to be done - like write the script.
No word on casting yet; but I'm sure the actor hired to play Huey Newton will be black - at least, I think so.