A new series about the relationship between Hollywood fixer Sidney Korshak and the late MCA media titan Lew Wasserman is stirring up some present-day back lot drama, multiple insiders tell Variety.
The issue at hand with the recently announced project “The Last Mogul,” which has attached Jonah Hill to star as Korshak and Oscar winning screenwriter William Monahan to adapt, is what sources called a misrepresentation of support from Wasserman’s power-player grandson Casey Wasserman to grease the wheels of a potential sale to a streamer or network.
“The Last Mogul” executive producers Allen Shapiro, the former CEO of Dick Clark Productions, and “300” filmmaker Mark Canton have told prospective buyers that the Wasserman family raised no objections to the scripted examination of Lew Wasserman’s friendship with notorious mafia attorney Korshak, sources told Variety.
“The idea that Casey Wasserman somehow endorsed the ‘Last Mogul’ project at any time, to anyone is flatly false and a letter to that effect was sent to Allen Shapiro last Friday confirming that fact,” a spokesperson for Wasserman told Variety.
Canton and Shapiro declined to comment on the matter. Another insider close to “The Last Mogul” said the legal letter in question blindsided Shapiro, who has been developing the property for roughly four years. Originally set up at the STARZ network under then-leader Chris Albrecht, the source said Shapiro was told that Albrecht had “cleared a path” with Wasserman regarding the script’s depiction of his family. Albrecht did not provide comment for this story.
Though Albrecht is now head of Legendary Television, that studio issued a statement to Variety saying they are “not associated with [“The Last Mogul”] and would not do it especially absent estate approval.”
Two individuals who read the pilot script for “The Last Mogul” said its primary focus is the well-documented bond between Korshak and Wasserman, whose lives and businesses intersected over many decades. Wasserman was president of the formative Hollywood talent agency MCA and led its acquisition of Universal Studios in 1962. Through his law practice, Korshak had dealings with famous mobsters including Al Capone and Sam Giancana and Hollywood luminaries like Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan, and Robert Evans. The pilot is also said to paint Lew’s wife Edie Wasserman as sexually promiscuous. Producers had no comment on the contents of the pilot script, which has yet to get a pass from Monahan (“The Departed”).
“This isn’t a matter of stopping a TV show from being made, it’s recognizing how unconscionable and unbelievable it is that Casey would ever endorse any dramatization of his grandparents, tacitly or otherwise, which he categorically would not and did not do,” said a former Lew Wasserman advisor and longtime family friend, speaking anonymously.
Lew Wasserman has been the subject of numerous books and documentaries, detailing his great influence on post-WWII show business and the contemporary star system. None have been acknowledged or endorsed by Casey, the owner the music and sports firm Wasserman and the chairman of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games.
After Albrecht stepped down from STARZ as CEO in 2019, the “Last Mogul” was released back to Shapiro, who then recruited actor Hill and producer Rick Yorn in a package with writer Monahan. It is based in part on the 1998 book “The Last Mogul: Lew Wasserman, MCA, and the Hidden History of Hollywood,” by journalist Dennis McDougal. Sources said a trove of research about Korshak that was not never included in the book will bolster the series’ plot.