Well-known high-stakes poker pro Justin Smith, a producer and partner at film production company Radar Pictures, has signed a deal to develop a biopic based on the life of famed poker player Doyle Brunson. Smith, better known to some players by his “BoostedJ” online handle, will develop the film’s script based on the life and career of Poker Hall of Famer Brunson, the legendary Poker Hall of Famer and 10-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner.
Smith has a deep well of background from which to draw for the film. After Brunson’s dreams of a pro-basketball career were literally shattered in an industrial accident, Brunson briefly turned to a sales career before discovering he could make far more money playing poker. Brunson became one of Texas’s most legendary road gamblers before relocating to Las Vegas and helping establish poker as a casino-based offering there.
“Texas Dolly” anchored Las Vegas’s highest-stakes cash games for decades, and at age 88, still plays in them today. The combination of Brunson’s poker accomplishments, his deep well of poker and gambling tales, and his own personal hardships and successes has the makings of an excellent film. Radar Pictures’ effort, tentatively titled The Godfather of Poker, also appears to be separate than the documentary on Brunson’s life that Brunson Tweeted about last September.
Deadline broke story of film deal
Prominent Hollywood-industry news outlet Deadline broke the news about Radar Pictures signing the deal to produce the Brunson biopic. Only a few details are available at this juncture, and the project has yet to receive a listing on mega film/TV data site IMDb. What is known from the Deadline feature is that Smith will write and produce the film, with Radar Pictures’ head, Ted Field, also working in a producer’s role.
“I met Doyle for the first time when he was 88,” Radar’s Field told Deadline. “From the twinkle in his eye, I was immediately aware that even at that age, with his razor-sharp mind he could still be formidable in any proposition he might undertake. If Doyle wants to bet with you, look out. His improbable life story needs to be told with all its rollercoaster ups and downs and we at Radar feel privileged to have the chance to do it justice.”
Smith noted for Deadline that there is probably no better life story in poker for adapting to film than Brunson’s, and he’s seen many proposed scripts. “None of them has intrigued me as much as Doyle’s story,” Smith told the outlet. “There’s no better life story than Doyle’s that I know of. Having played the biggest poker games with Doyle myself, I’m extremely honored to be in a unique position to be able to help tell his story and capture the environment accurately from an insider perspective.”
According to Deadline, Brunson, poker agent Brian Balsbaugh, Daniel “Jungleman” Cates, Mike Svobodny, Mike McGuiness, David Oppenheim and Illya Trincher will executive produce the effort.
Smith shares how biopic came together
Poker.org was able to reach “BoostedJ” about how the plans for the film emerged. “Mike Svobodny (world backgammon champion and legendary gambler) is a long time friend of mine,” Smith explained, “and he told me that he told Doyle and his team that I, along with my partner Ted Field, was his best pick of a person to partner with to produce it and write it.
“Ted and I flew to Vegas to meet Doyle and Brian. After playing ‘The Big Game’ with Doyle for a few years when I turned 21, I think Doyle trusted the movie to be in a fellow poker player and gambler’s care — along with Ted’s incredible track record. Ted is the most talented creative development/story person I’ve ever worked with or come across. I am extremely fortunate to be working with Ted and we are all very excited and pumped that we are working to make a fantastic Doyle movie.”
Radar Pictures has produced 80 films since its creation in 1984, generating $9 billion in revenue and including numerous box-office smashes. The company began as an offshoot of Interscope Communications and is currently headed by Field. Radar’s prominent hits include The Last Samurai, Runaway Bride, the Jumanji franchise, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Amityville Horror remakes, Mr. Holland’s Opus, Three Men and a Baby, Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick franchise, and many more.
Featured image source: Haley Hintze