Warner Brothers Developing Tokyo Underworld Adaptation
by Alex Billington
August 7, 2008
As much as it sounds like Tokyo Underworld might be a sequel to Ninja Assassin, it is something entirely different. This project is an adaptation of a book written by Robert Whiting fully titled "Tokyo Underworld: The Fast Times and Hard Life of an American Gangster in Japan." That title alone should hopefully be enough to interest you, as I'm already grinning thinking about cinematic opportunities (like Ridley's American Gangster in Japan). The story follows Nick Zappetti, an Italian-American from East Harlem who was part of the US occupation forces sent to Japan after WWII. Believing that Tokyo offered certain opportunities, Zappetti had a failed stint as a wrestler, participated in a fumbled diamond heist and was deported. But he returned illegally and opened a pizza joint, which in the mid-'60s became the center of Tokyo's nightlife, and for the next 15 years, he became an integral part in the yakuza's rise to power.
The right to this book were originally picked up by DreamWorks, but they've since fallen into the hands of producer Dan Lin (The Departed, The Box), who is now developing the project at Warner Brothers. They've hired the book's writer, Robert Whiting, now a journalist living in Japan, to serve as a consultant on the project. This is being tagged as a "true-life crime" story, which certainly means this will be exciting to see come to life on the big screen and is in the same vein as American Gangster and Public Enemies. Although there is no writer or director attached yet, I'm excited simply based on the potential that this has as a cinematic story. Imagine the bright colors and bustling activity of Tokyo as the setting for a story as intertwined as American Gangster and you might start to understand what I'm seeing. Hopefully it doesn't take too long to get the engines going on this project. Why is this adaptation so damn appealing?