Penthouse founder Bob Guccione’s rise to the top of the media landscape and fall into financial ruin will be the subject of a new television series, Variety has learned.
Jerrick and Maven Pictures are teaming up on the project and are currently interviewing writers. The filmmakers say they are interested in providing a deeper understanding of Guccione, who they maintain was much more than just a pornographer.
“Bob Guccione was more of an intellectual,” said Rick Schwartz, co-founder of Jerrick. “He was a complicated guy.”
Schwartz says that Guccione’s Upper East Side mansion wasn’t a Big Apple equivalent of the Playboy mansion. Instead of hedonistic parties, Guccione would host salons with the likes of astronomer and author Carl Sagan or attorney Alan Dershowitz. In addition to producing Penthouse, Guccione invested in cold fusion, backed a science and science-fiction magazine entitled Omni, and released “Caligula,” a notorious epic that blended erotica, history, and a host of RADA trained actors such as Helen Mirren and Peter O’Toole cavorting around ancient Rome.
The series will be told through the eyes of the women in Guccione’s life, charting his years as a struggling artist and cartoonist in London through the creation of Penthouse to his final years when his empire crumbled around him and he had to file for bankruptcy.
“It’s a meaty story,” said Schwartz, who notes that despite making a splash publishing pornography, Guccione championed women in his professional life, giving the likes of Vogue’s Anna Wintour their initial jobs.
In many ways, the show feels long overdue. After premiering our documentary Filthy Gorgeous: The Bob Guccione Story at TIFF in 2013, so many people approached us and said how the life and times of Bob Guccione would make for such great television; comparing it’s potential to the Mad Men series on AMC.
But my partner, Rick Schwartz, wanted to wait until just the right moment. The story will be told from the perspective of the women who worked for Bob. In a time when women are still fighting for their voice under precarious political pressures, there seems to be no better time than now for this story to be unveiled.