Posted on Tuesday, June 9th, 2009 by Russ Fischer
Most film fans now know the name DeLorean thanks to Back to the Future, but there was a point where the entrepreneur was a headline-making designer. There’s a reason that the 9000 produced DeLorean cars are an iconic symbol of the ’80s. Well, two reasons: in addition to making a wild-looking car, John DeLorean allegedly trafficked drugs to generate cash for his struggling company. (He beat the charges; the ‘trafficking’ was actually an elaborate entrapment scheme.) We’ve known that James Toback was interested in making a DeLorean biopic, and now Variety confirms that it is moving forward. Ironically, his co-creators are men with reputations worthy of the subject’s. Toback’s script may be directed by Brett Ratner and produced by Robert Evans, thanks to Ratner’s first-look deal with Reliance Big Entertainment.
If there’s a time to make this movie, it is now. Actually, revise that. If there was a time to make the movie it was a year ago, so that it could be released now, as American car manufacturers are tanking. But close enough. Three groups are racing to get the story on screen. In addition to the Toback/Ratner/Evans project, there’s one based on the life rights of DeLorean’s attorney Mayer Morganroth and one put together by Time Inc. Studios and XYZ Films based on articles from Time and Fortune in addition to the book Grand Delusions and an unpublished memoir written by DeLorean. The designer’s son Zachary and business partner Fred Dellis are cooperating on that one, too. The Time/XYZ picture is meant to be a ‘truthful telling’ of the designer’s life. Ratner, meanwhile, calls his take “a very timely parable of the extraordinary arrogance of a particular brand of American capitalism.”
DeLorean designed the Pontiac GTO and headed up Chevrolet as the Corvette and Camaro were redesigned and the Nova introduced in 1970. In the early ’80s he released the now-iconic DMC-12, now known simply as the DeLorean, through his own DeLorean Motor Corporation. But the company struggled from ’81 to ’82, and when the exec was approached by a man with an investment opportunity that might save his company, he entered negotiations. The guy, James Hoffman, turned out to be a former drug smuggler who’d become an FBI informant, and he gradually laid out a plan to smuggle cocaine and launder the proceeds. DeLorean would provide seed money, but he quickly felt that he was being railroaded into the plan, and delivered a sealed letter to his attorney describing the deal and his fears before the thing actually went down. The legal complications that ensued involved Larry Flynt (who leaked the FBI sting videotape in which DeLorean’s daughter was threatened) and eventually led to an aquittal. But by that point the company was done.
It’s an incredible story and an oddly timely one. Toback and Evans seem like nearly ideal men to get it going, but Ratner? Eesh. Let’s see who Time and XYZ can bring on board in the creative departments.