Denis R. O'Neill

Author, Screenwriter & Producer

Movies

Released

The River Wild Movie Poster

The River Wild Movie Poster

The River Wild

The River Wild was an original screenplay inspired by a six-day rafting trip I took with friends down Montana’s Smith River. It’s a wilderness river that winds through the Lewis & Clark National Forest, and for the most part once you get on it, you can’t get off for fifty-odd miles.

Working with great actors and a wonderful director (Curtis Hansen) was a joy for me – especially to have been so lucky on my first produced film. For any river detectives out there, the cinematic “River Wild” was actually shot on three different rivers: Montana’s Middle Fork of the Flathead, & Kootenai River, and on Oregon’s Rogue River.

I’ve mentioned to friends I never want to write (and see produced) a movie where I can’t have a fly rod in hand sometime during the shoot. So far, I’m two for two (A Shot at Glory starring Robert Duvall being the other film). That rule also goes for the lead actors: Meryl single-handling a 5 weight fly rod in The River Wild – Robert Duvall wielding a two-handed Spey rod in A Shot at Glory (filmed in Scotland.)

Here are a few of the studio still photographs taken during the making of the film:



A Shot at Glory Movie Poster

A Shot at Glory Movie Poster

A Shot at Glory

Like The River Wild, A Shot At Glory allowed me to write an original screenplay about something I was passionate about (and relatively accomplished at): soccer. I grew up playing the sport, and played at Dartmouth.

When a Scottish friend told me about the fierce rivalry between Glasgow’s “Old Firm” – Glasgow Rangers (the Protestant club) and Glasgow Celtic (the Catholic club) – I researched the rivalry on location and came away with the story I wanted to tell.

Robert Duvall loved the lead role of a second division football (soccer) manager who is estranged from his daughter because of her marriage to a one-time great player (Ally McCoist – a legendary goal scorer in his day, and present manager of Rangers).

Michael Corrente, the director, funded the film independently. We hired real players from Scotland’s professional leagues and rented the national stadium for the Scottish Cup final depicted in the script – a David and Goliath encounter between 2nd division Kilnockie (Duvall’s team) and the mighty Glasgow Rangers.

It was a whirlwind 35-day shooting schedule and a ball from start to finish. Mark Knopfler’s haunting score was the perfect icing on a lovely film cake for me.



Movies

Future Projects

MILLION DOLLAR BASS

MILLION DOLLAR BASS

The story is a heartfelt and humorous father & son adventure set against the backdrop of a million dollar bass competition – not a professional event, but an open derby. TRAVIS (the father), finding himself in the midst of an unpleasant divorce, returns to the East Texas fishing lodge his father took him to, with his twelve-year old son BODIE in tow.

Travis reconnects with KAT the piss & vinegar daughter of the aging lodge owner (RICHARD EARL), who is waging her own battle with a developer who wants to buy her out.

REX, the developer, is an unscrupulous manipulator who will stoop to nothing to get what he wants. On the real estate front, he has enlisted a former employee of Kat and Richard Earl’s Lucky Strike Lodge (STACEY) to taint the water supply with traces of arsenic in order to threaten a costly lawsuit (the lodge sits on the site of an old gold mine.) On the fishing front, he has imported a pair of fishing legends – THE FISHING FLANAGANS (brothers EARL & EVERETT) who are all the rage on the professional bass fishing circuit – to catch the million dollar tagged bass. To be sure they do, he has even stashed away a second tagged fish.

The Flanagans, with their cherried out, half-million dollar super fishing boat “Kiss My Bass” and their sponsors-plastered, body hugging jump suits, provide much of the story’s comedy and two of the biggest set pieces: an opening night bash at Rex’s destination-resort, where they demonstrate their good ‘ol boy tendencies and considerable casting expertise, and a climactic eleventh hour “Titanic-like” encounter between “Kiss My Bass” and a hidden rock that triggers Travis, Bodie & Richrd Earl’s heroic ride back to the weigh-in dock with the million dollar bass on board.

The heart of the story lies in Travis and Bodie’s father and son relationship. With his career in flux, and his ability to provide for his son in jeopardy, Travis plunges into the weekend fishing competition dreaming of winning the big prize. He also wants to strengthen his bond with Bodie – a closeness threatened by the possibility of joint custody. Together they play the comic underdog to the Flanagans – much as Kat does with Rex. Their boat’s a rusting old tub once owned by Travis’s father… their rods have seen better days… and Travis’s fishing skills are as rusty as the boat.

What they lack in ability, however, they make up for in heart. In their quest to outfish the legendary Flanagans and land the MILLION DOLLAR BASS, Travis and Bodie rediscover a kinship money can’t buy. Oh yes, and Travis and Kat fall in love.

HINDENBURG

HINDENBURG

The story of the Hindenburg and its dramatic, fiery demise remains one of history’s signature mysteries. Here, for the first time since director Robert Wise’s campy 1975 motion picture The Hindenburg (dubbed “Love Blimp” by one reviewer) is a thrilling imagining of the catastrophic last flight and legendary travel disaster — based on real characters, real events, and plausible motivations.

Truth is, it would be hard to concoct a cast of characters with as much intrigue as those who actually boarded the Zeppelin in Frankfurt, Germany on May 3, 1937 – from a free spirited American acrobat returning after a European tour, to the son of an American diplomat and munitions maker with ties to William Donovan (soon-to-be head of the O.S.S), to a Colonel in the German Luftwaffe who thought Hitler a madman, to a German rigger aboard the airship whose seductive girlfriend was a member of the German underground committed to stopping Hitler.

Visually, the elements of the story are ripe for a movie look somewhere between a graphic novel and a 3D extravaganza. Storm clouds are gathering (real and metaphorical); for most of our tale it is winter in Europe and America – dark, overcast, bundled, cold. It is an ominous time. Massive zeppelins – three football fields long – darken the skies, casting Big Brother, eclipse-like shadows – airborne hover craft, practically invented for 3D rendering. Insurgents try to fight back against Hitler’s Fascist forces.

Our story careens from the horrific carnage of the Spanish Civil War (the Basque town of Guernica – subject of Picasso’s monumental homage to the defiant but outgunned Spanish Republicans), to the backrooms of Washington, D.C…. from the smoky, sexy cabarets of pre-war Germany, to the massive Nazi propaganda rallies with robotic masses chanting allegiance… from secret munitions factories under heavy guard, to clandestine, basement Bolshevist meetings… from the Hindenburg’s imposing cave-like hangar, to the behemoth that is the actual dirigible… with its polished wood salons and sleeping cabins and its eerie, dark, mammoth, almost supernatural superstructure.

These were tenuous and terrifying times in Europe and America. Hitler had tested elements of his war machine in the Spanish Civil War and was almost ready to take on the world. President Roosevelt suspected his true intentions but needed proof to wake up an isolationist America. Everybody was watching and waiting… when the Hindenburg took off that fateful morning. On board was the one man whose knowledge of Germany’s military capability might be able to convince the allies to stop Hitler before he started World War II… escorted by a young American graduate student who picked up the mantle of his fallen friend, to see if he could make a difference.

RUINED (The Louie Greco Story)

RUINED

(The Louie Greco Story)

The 2013 summer trial of notorious, Boston gangster Whitey Bulger has aimed a hard, revealing light not only on Bulger’s murderous activities – but on the corrupt behavior of the FBI agents who “handled” him. Bulger was a second generation informant.

Before him, Joe “The Animal” Barboza – first member of the Witness Protection Program – was the rat the FBI recruited to help bring down a number of Boston area mobsters. In their zeal to dismember the New England Mafioso, they also ruined a number of innocent lives – Louie Greco’s foremost among them. It was an almost unbelievable era of shameful behavior the House Committee on Government Reform called: “The greatest failure in the history of U.S. Law Enforcement.”

RUINED is Louie Greco’s story.

A Mafia hit. An innocent man. An FBI framing and cover-up. A hero’s journey. A heart-wrenching journey, and an anger-inducing thriller about federal corruption. A crime story, and a cautionary tale. This is what happens when you give the FBI too much power with too little oversight. This is what could happen to you if the FBI decides you are acceptable collateral damage.

A brave and indefatigable lawyer – John Cavicchi – anchors the story involving a cast of characters you can’t make up: Barboza, the notorious Boston hit man, F. Lee Bailey, J. Edgar Hoover, a WWII hero (Louie Greco) who is framed by Hoover’s Boston bureau in the FBI’s attempt to knock out the Mafia, a “Deep Throat-like” Boston reporter, Jim Southwood, two decent judges – one state, one federal – a heroic Federal Task Force investigator who helps peel back the layers of corruption, and Paul Rico – an FBI agent who would become, in effect, the “boss of bosses” in Boston… and die in an Oklahoma Prison hospital while awaiting his own trial for murder.

In the end… on July 26, 2007… there is ultimate vindication: victory in a civil suit whose hundred million dollar settlement for Greco and three other defendants represented the largest sum of money ever awarded in such a case. It was a massive monetary payout accompanied by Judge Nancy Gertner’s withering admonition that “The government’s position is, in a word, absurd…” and that “…no lost liberty is dispensable. We have fought wars over this principle. We are still fighting these wars.”

In movie pedigree, RUINED (The Louie Greco Story) is a cross between two other acclaimed Boston-based films: The Departed, and The Verdict.