Saturday, August 30, 2008

'Torso' filming in Cleveland?

More news for all you torso enthusiasts! reports progress toward shooting Torso, a feature film about Cleveland's infamous serial killer. I'm excited, but skeptical.

Here's the backstory. In January 2006, Fight Club director David Fincher announced he wanted to adapt the graphic novel Torso into a film, dramatizing Eliot Ness' attempts to solve our town's grisly 1930s dismemberment-murders. Then 2 1/2 years went by with few updates.

Until this week, when the Plain Dealer quoted Bill Mechanic, a co-producer on the project, saying Paramount Studios wants to start shooting in early 2009. The filmmakers want to shoot it all in Cleveland, Mechanic says, but they may have to do only street scenes here, and the rest in Detroit, because Michigan has new tax breaks for filmmaking that Ohio doesn't.

Well. A few thoughts. Of course Cleveland movies ought to be filmed in Cleveland. And of course Ness' Cleveland years were filled with cinematic drama. I can't wait to see the scene of Ness, on his first day as safety director, walking out of the old Payne Avenue police headquarters, promising action. And even though Detroit's gorgeous 1920s architecture could easily stand in for Cleveland's, Ohio should look to Michigan's new law for ideas on attracting film projects.

But a close read shows reasons not to dust off your head shots, in hopes of becoming a fedora-topped or post-flapper-bobbed extra, just yet. The PD, citing Mechanic, says "Paramount executives are putting together the movie's budget and a critical piece of that involves receiving tax breaks." In other words, the funding isn't nailed down yet. Also, the PD says the film "will star Matt Damon as Eliot Ness," but Damon's not listed on Torso's page on IMDBPro (subscription only). I think the PD is going off vague 2006 reports that the filmmakers were talking to Damon about the role. An anonymous poster to who says he's in the film industry is skeptical too.

Torso could be a great movie if Fincher can see his ambitions through. He says he wants to make it the Citizen Kane of cop movies -- and demythologize Eliot Ness. A worthy goal, but given his source material, I wonder. The graphic novel Torso, while closer to the historic Ness than the Untouchables film and TV series, takes plenty of fictional leaps. To create an effective climax, Ness catches the killer. The real torso murderer was never caught.

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