Knowing a good story has been part of Paul Pope's family business. It's obvious why. As the son of Gene Pope, the Italian-American businessman whose nose for gore and sex created the National Enquirer, Paul grew up surrounded by a business that literally changed the tone of American pop culture. The younger Pope's own life story unrolled in a tabloid-ready narrative arc, filled with the loss of the Enquirer empire, long-standing legal battles with his own mother, and the extremes of rich-kid opulence.
Now, the family saga might finally be coming to a wider audience, as Pope recently sold the film rights for his book to Hollywood.
"I've always known I'm sitting on one of the great American stories," Pope tells New Times. "It's The Godfather meets Citizen Kane. It has that epic, broad appeal."
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Big-time Hollywood movers and shakers have signed on to option Pope's 2010 history of his family, The Deeds of My Fathers. The text tracks the dips and swells of the family's fortunes. Pope's grandfather, Generoso Sr., landed in New York in the early innings of the 20th century from Italy, later climbing the ladder of the American dream to become a powerful and politically connected construction baron. Generoso's interests later branched into journalism as owner of Il Progresso, an Italian-language newspaper. Senior's son, Generoso Jr., landed in the same business when he founded the National Enquirer in 1952.
Fox 21 Television Studios has purchased an option on the rights. This company is behind some shows you might have heard of, like Game of Thrones and Mad Men. Producers for the project include Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way Productions and Langley Park Pictures, the shop run by producer Kevin McCormick, whose movies include Saturday Night Fever and The Gangster Squad. Ironically, these were among the partners Pope had in mind when he initially began shopping the project around interested studios a year ago.
According to terms of the recent deal, the producers have an option to renew the option in July. A sales figure hasn't been publicized. If the current team doesn't renew the option this summer, Pope is still confident the project will move forward. There's been other interest, he claims.
Pope also isn't interested in just driving to the edge of California, pitching his story over the border, and running away, as the old line goes. "I would want to be as involved as I could be," he says. For years, Pope has stored information on the family and the Italian-American experience in the 20th Century, all information that would be useful for a film or show. "The Pope Media Center, we're past ten terabytes. I have thousands of hours of video."