POLITICIANS. Gangsters. Violence. Corruption…
Many of the ingredients in Atlantic City’s rich, if checkered, history have provided the recipe for an original HBO series, “Boardwalk Empire.”
Executives at the premium cable network last month ordered 11 hour long episodes of the period drama, which is scheduled to begin production this fall at Steiner Studios in Brooklyn for a 2010 premiere.
Set in 1920 at the beginning of Prohibition and inspired by Nelson Johnson’s book “Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City,” the show will revolve around the life of Nucky Thompson, played by Steve Buscemi.
Depicted as equal parts politician and gangster, Buscemi’s character is based on real-life Republican boss Enoch “Nucky” Johnson, who dominated Atlantic City politics for more than 40 years and rubbed elbows with the likes of Al Capone and Lucky Luciano.
“Boardwalk Empire,” written and created by Terence Winter (“The Sopranos”), has attracted some of the biggest names working behind the camera in Hollywood, including Martin Scorsese, who produced the pilot episode.
Scorsese will join Winter, Tim Van Patten (also from “Sopranos”) as well as Mark Wahlberg and Stephen Levinson (both of “Entourage”) as executive producers of the show.
Other cast members include Michael Pitt (“The Village”), Kelly MacDonald (“No Country for Old Men”), Michael Shannon (“Revolutionary Road”), Stephen Graham, Shea Whigham and Dabney Coleman.
For his part, Nelson Johnson, a New Jersey Superior Court judge (and no relation to “Nucky” Johnson) was not terribly surprised when television executives showed interest in using his book to create a series.
“Not because of the book but because of Nucky,” he said. “Once people knew who he was, what he was about — he did wear two hats. He was a very flamboyant, very colorful, powerful guy who moved in powerful circles. I thought he had the potential for a movie.”
The Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority (ACCVA) also sees potential in the city’s new star status.
“While we don’t necessarily push the history of Atlantic City, I think we absolutely will get a bump [in tourism],” said Jeff Vasser, president of the ACCVA. “I think when people read this book and they see the HBO production… they’re going to want to see some of the landmarks [that are mentioned] like the Steel Pier, 500 Club Lane, some of the old speakeasies, which are now some of the great restaurants in town.
“Even though you’re talking about rum running, mob stuff, it’s still colorful. People enjoy seeing and reading about that. It gives people reason to want to see more of what’s in the city, and that puts Atlantic City in a positive light.”
By AMY BARATTA
New York Post