Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Movie, the Mob, and an FBI Sting

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Movie, the Mob, and an FBI Sting

Article excerpt

A young man who passes himself off as a pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer. A foreign visitor who ends up living at an airport. An FBI sting that involves shooting a feature film.

All three stories, based on actual events, were turned into movies by screenwriter Jeff Nathanson. The first two, "Catch Me If You Can" and "The Terminal," were directed by Steven Spielberg. The third, "The Last Shot," marks Nathanson's debut as a director. None of the movies, he hastens to point out, should be mistaken for documentaries.

"You simply can't take these kinds of stories, condense them down to 100 minutes, and expect to stay completely honest," explains Nathanson. "You have to serve the film and the audience."

In "The Last Shot," opening in theaters Friday, Matthew Broderick plays an aspiring filmmaker working as a ticket taker at the famous Chinese Theater in Los Angeles. His dream is to make a movie about a woman's quest for truth in Arizona.

Alec Baldwin is an FBI agent pursuing racketeers who target movie productions, and decides to hire Broderick to make a film. The budding director has no idea it's a sting operation, and even goes along with the FBI's request to shoot in Rhode Island instead of Arizona.

Nathanson got the idea from an article in Details magazine, about how the FBI duped two brothers, both aspiring filmmakers, into making a film as part of a sting operation.

"I was kind of in shock by the whole thing. It seemed like such an insanely silly idea. But [the FBI] took it all very seriously."

As a first-time director, Nathanson could identify with Broderick's character's idealism. "I was an usher at movie theaters. I worked in video stores," he recalls. "The whole skeleton of the film is truth," he says of the story. "[The FBI] did go to Rhode Island. They did go out to Los Angeles and recruit two struggling filmmakers." In Nathanson's version, the filmmaker and the FBI operative are brothers, who then fight over control of the screenplay they've written.

The film ends with a bittersweet moment between Broderick, who finally discovers the truth, and Baldwin, who has caught the dream of filmmaking. …

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