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Producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan have had extremely successful careers bringing musical fiction to both the big and small screen, with films like Chicago and Hairspray, and NBC’s Smash. (Okay, so that wasn’t such a successful show.) Their next effort is adapting the beloved The Sound of Music into a live stage musical for NBC, but their future plans will trade off on catchy tunes for one of the most brutal killers in American history. The duo will be working with Storyline producer Mark Nicholson and Sony Pictures TV in developing Nemesis: The Final Case of Eliot Ness, an adaptation of the true crime novel written by William Bernhardt.
Nemesis will be an eight-hour miniseries, according to Deadline, written by Benjamin Brand (Bollywood Hero, November). No talks about any directors or stars just yet, but you know they’re going to pull a famous face to play Ness, the famed leader of the federal agent superteam The Untouchables, most famously showcased in Brian De Palma’s 1987 film of the same name, with Kevin Costner as in the starring role. (Though Robert Stack will always be the real Eliot Ness to many people, from his stellar work in the 1959-1963 series.)
Having left Al Capone’s illegal dealings behind, Ness became Cleveland’s Director of Public Safety in the mid-1930s, which coincided with the murder of the ruthless Cleveland Torso Killer, often thought to be America’s first serial killer. He was known for decapitations, castrations and chopping torsos in half during his three year reign of terror, killing 12 official victims, though there may have been more. This wasn’t Ness’ territory, but he still found himself involved in the case, trying to figure out who the culprit was, to the point of mental anguish. Unfortunately, much like the Zodiac Killer, no one was ever convicted of the crimes, though there were some suspects.
Besides Bernhardt’s book, the case was famously told in one of comic genius Brian Michael Bendis’ first graphic novels, Torso, which was originally going to be a David Fincher feature, and most recently was attached to Ain’t Them Bodies Saints director David Lowery. I have to wonder if this miniseries will squash all movie efforts, or if it will attract more attention to the case in general.
There was also talk a few years ago of De Palma possibly starting up a prequel to The Untouchables, but thankfully that project got lost somewhere along the way. At least we’ll always have De Niro as Al Capone.