James Toback Is Planning a Very Unusual Movie

James Toback. Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Oscar-nominated writer-director James Toback hasn't made a movie since his acclaimed 2008 documentary Tyson, but yesterday at a Dom Perignon lunch for The Artist at the Monkey Bar (hosted by Harvey Weinstein and Diane von Furstenberg), Toback revealed to Vulture that he's prepping a new film he'll direct this summer in Cannes. "It involves rethinking what the self is," said Toback, whose other credits include Black and White, Fingers, and the screenplay to Bugsy. "If I say, 'I'm James Toback,' what does that mean? I could just as easily be walking over there and saying, 'I'm Harold Lerner.' I could go to a second country with a different identity." Toback told us that several things inspired the movie, including the growing visibility of the trans community and one eccentric personal anecdote: "I have a friend who is a famous eye surgeon, and one day, he said, he was in a paranoid phase of his life, he said, 'How many identities do you have?' 'What do you mean? I have one identity.' He said he had six. 'What do you mean?' He had six passports, six birth certificates, six social security cards, six driver's licenses."

But what exactly is this "totally unusual, inventive" movie about? "In one week, I'll be allowed to tell you more, but not until we sign our deal memo," said Toback, though he teased that it would likely blur the line between fiction and documentary. In fact, "It's going to say it's a 'James Toback Fiction Film,' because the reason I say that is that it might otherwise be confused with a nonfiction film; it turns fiction on its head. So that's the official position ... Let me put it this way: My life has been leading up to this moment. So that means I can die after this is over." In the meantime, Toback has scripted Gotti: In the Shadow of My Father for director Barry Levinson, a tumultuous project that has churned through directors, stars, lawsuits, and start dates. Still, Toback says the film is on track to shoot this November, and he promised that star Ben Foster, who plays Jon Gotti Jr. in the mob tale, "is going to be great, he's going to be terrific."