By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist April 28, 2011 at 3:18AM
Once every six months or so, the Hollywood Elders, the shadowy collection of media moguls, Freemasons, Jewish lizardmen and Warren Beatty that control the film industry, don their robes, gather in their secret chamber under the Hollywood sign and plot out their agenda. Sometimes, it's elevating a particular actor or actress for no apparent reason -- Alex Pettyfer was a homeless 37-year-old drifter until they surgically re-sculpted him into the hottest young actor in Hollywood (though he's on his way to torpedoing that all by himself). Sometimes it's pushing technological breakthroughs -- 48 FPS cameras? Developed in their lair. And sometimes it's just deciding what sub-genre of films will suddenly be everywhere.
A few years ago it was superheroes. Then vampires. Then zombies. Most recently, fairy tale movies have been everywhere, with no less than three Snow White pictures heading a field, not to mention pictures based on Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk and Hansel & Gretel, among many others. But it seems like the Elders have passed down their latest declaration, and it's that period gangster flicks are so hot right now.
A rebirth of the genre was attempted a few years back with Michael Mann's interesting failure "Public Enemies," but suddenly fedoras and tommy guns seem to be everywhere. One of Warner Bros' hottest prospects for the next few years is "Gangster Squad," which will see "Zombieland" director Ruben Fleischer helm a widely acclaimed script from former cop Will Beall, following a pair of cops (Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin) who aim to bring down legendary mobster Micky Cohen (Sean Penn). And that's not to forget the John Travolta/Joe Pesci/Lindsay Lohan "Gotti: Three Generations," which is aiming to move ahead soon, despite recently losing its director, Nick Cassavettes.
And now Deadline report that there are two rival projects in the works that focus on perhaps the most famous gangster of them all: Al Capone. The much-feared Chicago crime figure has been played by dozens of actors over the years, from Rod Steiger in the 1957 biopic "Al Capone," to Stephen Graham in HBO's in-progress series "Boardwalk Empire," but the two new films hope to give a fresh take on the figure. The longest in development, as mentioned before, is Warner Bros' "Cicero," which promises to look at the early days of Capone. According to the site, "Harry Potter" director David Yates is keen to move on to the film once he finishes up "Deathly Hallows Pt. 2," although one wonders if the studio going so hot-and-heavy on "Gangster Squad" might threaten that project's viability.
More recent is Relativity Media's acquisition of "Ness/Capone," a script from first-timer Grant Pierce Myers that made last year's Black List. The film promises a very different depiction of the gangster and his lawman pursuer Elliot Ness than that depicted in the classic TV show and, subsequent Brian De Palma remake, "The Untouchables," following a 30-year-old Capone and an arrogant, womanizing 26-year-old Ness, one promised to be closer to the real article.
The premise is fairly similar to "The Untouchables: Capone Rising" a prequel to De Palma's movie that the director came close to making a few years back, with Gerard Butler as a younger version of the role originally taken by Sean Connery, and Nicolas Cage as Capone, and from the glimpse we've had at the script, it seems to be a firmly Hollywood-style, action-heavy take on the material likely to be far more commercial than, say, "Public Enemies."
There's clearly something in the water about the style -- although prospective screenwriters should be warned not to start on their own take because 1) It'll probably be terrible and 2) Something else will probably be in vogue by the time you finish it. Still, we like a period gangster flick as much as the next man, and we'd certainly rather see half a dozen of these than a big-budget reboot of "Rumpelstiltskin."