The other week came word of a high profile film deal for the rights to The Daily Beast article “How an Ex-Cop Rigged McDonald’s Monopoly Game and Stole Millions”. Ultimately it was 20th Century Fox and Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s Pearl Street Films which won a fierce bidding war to adapt the story.
Vulture (via Slashfilm) has now done a follow-up report indicating that Martin Scorsese & Leonardo di Caprio, Kevin Hart & Universal, Robert Downey Jr. & Netflix, Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg and Amblin Entertainment were all also after the still-untitled McDonald’s Monopoly film. More interesting though is that the article was planted specifically to generate enough interest for a movie deal.
The article’s writer Jeff Maysh reportedly teamed up with co-producer David Klawans years ago to develop this story into an article that they could then option as a film. Klawans searches for obscure true stories wild enough to make a movie about, buys life rights to those involved in the story, teams with journalists to re-research the topics, and then publishes them in a story with a linear narrative (complete with three-act structure) at a reputable outlet.
Effectively Klawans has been pitching films this way for some time, and the results speak for themselves with both “Argo” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” going on to great success this way. Even so, it’s calculated and seems a bit of a cheat of the system.
It pays though with Pearl Street optioning the project for $350,000 against $1 million if the movie gets made – making it the highest price ever paid for an optioned article in Hollywood history.