John Travolta is claiming that the recent fast-spreading reports of his upcoming film Gotti being pulled from production 10 days before its release are false. He says that Lionsgate did, indeed, sell the rights to the movie, but only because he and the producers wanted a wider release than what the distributor was planning.
Travolta says he found a financier willing to spend more money on a wider release of the Kevin Connolly-directed John Gotti biopic, which Travolta considers one of his better performances. Edward Walson, the producer of five Broadway plays and eight films, found the money to buy Lionsgate out of the equation. A new deal is close with another theatrical distributor that will make Gotti a wide release, they said.
"Unfortunately, the reports were speculation bordering on fake news," Travolta told Deadline. "Lionsgate was planning on a minimal release, and I did an investigation into people who might have the interest and financial wherewithal to better release it. Ed is a fan of mine and of the Gotti story and really wanted to see the movie. I invited his group, they saw it and bought it. That is the simple explanation for this."
Travolta maintains that the film wasn't "dropped" — instead, he and Walson bought it from Lionsgate in order to give it the full release they believe it deserves.
"It wasn't dropped. It wasn't easy to get Lionsgate to give it up. They said no, twice, and I literally begged them to reconsider and they finally and generously let it go," Travolta continued. "We signed this deal about three weeks ago, to purchase back the film from Lionsgate. Our mistake was we should have said something right then and discussed our plan for the film. We didn't anticipate this speculation that is so grossly wrong."
Walson said he was singing the movie's praises before he knew anything about the release details.
"Not knowing anything about the release plans, I saw the film and loved it, especially John's portrayal as Gotti. It's a supreme piece of work I thought deserves proper recognition. Having produced eight films, I've seen the frustration that sometimes happens when distributors don't think of out-of-the-box ways to promote a movie, let alone spend any P&A money. I thought, 'Here is an opportunity to take a magnificent movie, and get it seen.' "
Travolta and Walson said they are near a deal with a significant distributor they wouldn't divulge, to facilitate that. They will submit to Cannes as an official submission, but they hope the film will premiere at the movie festival one way or another.
In the film, Travolta and his wife, Kelly Preston will take their marriage onscreen as they will appear as the Gotti family husband and wife.
Other cast members of the film include Spencer LoFranco, Stacy Keach, Chris Mulkey, and Patrick Boriello. LoFranco will take on the role of John Gotti Junior. Keach, best known for his roles in the Bourne Legacy and American History X, will portray Gambino crime family underboss Neil Dellacroce. Mulkey (Captain Phillips) will play the role of Frankie DeCicco, and Boriello (A Bronx Tale) will be playing Gotti Junior's cousin "Johnny Boy" Ruggiero.
John Gotti was convicted of numerous crimes in the early '90s and was sentenced to life in prison. He continued to run the Gambino Crime Family from prison throughout the '90s to the early 2000s, via his son John Jr. and brother Peter.
That puppet hierarchy put major strain on Gotti's family bonds, as wife Victoria had no idea that John Jr. was in the life. After Gotti Jr. plead guilty to RICO charges in the late '90s and moved in and out of prison for the next decade or so for repeated offenses related to organized crime. He was eventually released for good in December 2009 and remains free to this day.