Return to Transcripts main page


Remembering James Gandolfini; Top 5 Best True Crime Movies of All Time

Aired June 20, 2013 - 23:00:00   ET


CARLOS DIAZ, HOST: Tonight, SHOWBIZ TONIGHT remembers James Gandolfini.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that, OK, Tony? Can I sit?

JAMES GANDOLFINI, ACTOR: After all is said and done, after all the complaining and the crying and all the (EXPLETIVE DELETED), is this all there is?


DIAZ: Tony Soprano forever transformed what we thought a TV hero should be. Tonight, a SHOWBIZ tribute to the iconic actor. From "The Sopranos" to Broadway, we celebrate the life of James Gandolfini.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT starts right now.

Hello, I`m Carlos Diaz. Tonight, a special SHOWBIZ tribute to the late James Gandolfini.

Today, we`re getting brand-new details about the tragic death of the man most knew as the iconic Tony Soprano in HBO`s hit series. But Gandolfini was much more than that. The overwhelming reaction to his sudden passing proves that point clearly. His co-stars come across as family. His fans feel like old friends. And tonight, we celebrate the legacy of an icon who didn`t seem to know how much he was revered.


GANDOLFINI: To my health.

DIAZ: Today, it seems the entire world is toasting James Gandolfini. One day after the TV legend who played Tony Soprano died suddenly while on vacation in Italy, today was one long Gandolfini love fest full of tributes from "Sopranos" fans...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a great, great loss to us, because we loved "The Sopranos" very much.

DIAZ: ... and from fellow actors who worked with Gandolfini.

JOHN TRAVOLTA, ACTOR: The beautiful thing about Jim was that he was a people person first.

DIAZ: This morning on "Good Morning America," an emotional John Travolta took time out of his scheduled interview to remember his frequent co-star and friend.

TRAVOLTA: I was his inspiration for him to get into the business.

DIAZ: Not only did they work together in five movies, including 1995`s "Get Shorty," Travolta revealed today on "Good Morning America" that he and Gandolfini shared a lifelong family connection.

TRAVOLTA: My father sold tires to his father. He was just a beautiful man, and I love him very much.

DIAZ: But as the tributes to Gandolfini poured in today, there are new details coming in about his sudden death.

DAX HOLT, "TMZ": I think the news of his passing hit everyone like a ton of bricks.

DIAZ: Gandolfini, seen her in one of his last public appearances last week in New York, was in Italy vacationing with his teenage son, Michael.

HOLT: He was there with his son. The two of them were on a guys` trip.

DIAZ: They were staying at this hotel in Rome, when his son reportedly found he`d collapsed in the bathroom at about 10 p.m. local time.

HOLT: All signs are pointing toward a heart attack.

DIAZ: Gandolfini was rushed to this hospital where he was pronounced dead, reportedly an hour after his son first found him.

HOLT: So the second that Michael`s mother, who is James Gandolfini`s ex- wife, heard about the news of James`s passing, she immediately jumped on a flight, headed out to Italy to be by her son, obviously through this rough time.

DIAZ: But even though Gandolfini is gone, everyone is remembering the immortal character he played.

GANDOLFINI: Thank you.

DIAZ: Edie Falco played Tony Soprano`s wife on the show. In a statement, she said, "I consider myself very lucky to have spent ten years as his close colleague. The love between Tony and Carmella was one of the greatest I`ve ever known."

GANDOLFINI: Where are you going? Hey, Tony, I got to meet John down at the restaurant.

DIAZ: Frank Vincent played Tony`s rival on "The Sopranos." He remembered his time with Gandolfini.

FRANK VINCENT, ACTOR: It`s a tragic loss that we have -- we lost this guy, because he`s a great, great actor and a great friend.

DIAZ: Gandolfini wasn`t just an Emmy Award-winning TV legend. He appeared in lots of movies you probably didn`t even know he was in.

BRAD PITT, ACTOR: Now I always check.

DIAZ: He did three movies with Brad Pitt, including "The Mexican" and most recently, "Killing Them Softly."

GANDOLFINI: I felt like a man. It made me feel good.

DIAZ: Today, Pitt issued a statement about Gandolfini, reading, quote, "I am gutted by this loss."

GANDOLFINI: This is my reward.

DIAZ: But it`s "The Sopranos" for which everyone will remember Gandolfini.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He definitely put New Jersey on the map.

DIAZ: Fans gathered at Holsten`s Ice Cream Parlor in Bloomfield, New Jersey, where the final scene of "The Sopranos" finale was shot. And while that scene had an ambiguous ending, the love and respect being shown today for the guy who played Tony was anything but.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can`t believe it. I`m in shock.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m really taken aback. I mean, he was such a young man. And you know, just such a nice guy.


DIAZ: As we mentioned, Gandolfini was on vacation with his family when he passed away. SHOWBIZ takes you to Rome right now where CNN`s Barbie Nadeau is standing by.

Barbie, what has the reaction been there to Gandolfini`s passing?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it`s shock, just like everywhere else in the world. This is a man that the Italians really embraced as one of their own. His mother was born in Naples, very much an Italian; grew up with the Italian culture at home. And people are shocked and sad. "Sopranos" was probably not as popular here in Italy as it was in the United States, but it was a well-watched television program.

DIAZ: Gandolfini`s death, of course, brings so many different questions. His sudden death. And while reports say it was likely a heart attack, when are officials there expected to release the official cause of death?

NADEAU: Well, it`s important to understand here in Italy, we`ve got a different set of privacy rules. It will be up to the family whether or not those results of the autopsy are released or not. The hospital will really not be able to do anything without their permission.

You know, issues can be leaked and things like that. That`s the nature of how things work here, but it really will be up to the family.

The autopsy was conducted today. The results should be ready tomorrow to be released unless they had to do extra tests, like take a biopsy or to do some other testing with his body to understand it further, if it`s not a cut-and-dry heart attack.

DIAZ: Barbie, here in America, we talked about how the restaurant where they filmed the final scene of the final episode of "Sopranos" has had people gathering there as a tribute. Have there been any tributes like that in Italy? Have you seen any homages pop up there in Italy to James Gandolfini?

NADEAU: Well, you know, on Saturday, on June 22, he was supposed to receive a lifetime achievement award in Taormina, Sicily, on the island of Sicily for his acting at a film festival. And I think what we are really seeing right now is people directing their tributes to that film festival.

The director of the film festival spoke with him two hours before he died. He was saying how he was excited to come to Sicily, how he was happy to show his son some of the Italian culture. So I think we`re really going to see that grief and that mourning and that loss really in Taormina, Sicily, in the coming days.

DIAZ: And finally, as we wrap up here, just bear with me 20 seconds. It`s been the No. 1 story here in America. It`s been all over the headlines. Where does it rank there as far as news? Is it is the top of the news story, his passing?

NADEAU: You know, it`s a big news story here. It`s certainly on the front page of the major Web sites and things like that. On the front page of the newspapers. It`s a big story here. Not as big as in the United States, but certainly people know who he was and know why it`s important that his life was cut short so soon.

DIAZ: All right. CNN`s Barbie Nadeau, thank you so much for joining us from Rome.

The whole world seems to be sending out love to "The Sopranos" legend tonight, but what`s made the biggest impression on me is hearing from people who knew James Gandolfini personally.

David Proval played the role of Richie on "The Sopranos." He was also a friend of James Gandolfini. He is with us tonight from Hollywood.

David, first off, our condolences on the loss of your friend. And tell us what it was like to work side-by-side with him.

DAVID PROVAL, ACTOR (via phone): Well, it was a gift for any actor. Jimmy, he will be especially a man of integrity. All I had to do was be there, and he gave me so much, and so, he cut most of my work in half.

He has great talent, and he is so giving. And amazing character he was doing. And what a departure because I mean, we had nicknames for each other. He called me Itchy Richie and I called him Dr. Creampuff.

DIAZ: Why -- Dr. Creampuff, why Dr. Creampuff?

PROVAL: Because he was the sweetest, softest guy and giving, and he was a creampuff. I mean, and I just -- a gentle big guy who didn`t want many of the celebrity over celebrations. Really was one of those guys who didn`t want it; just wanted to do the work of a true artist.

DIAZ: David, I cannot thank you enough for coming on, I want to say to you as well, your character of Richie was very powerful on "The Sopranos," and I know you`re going through a very tough time right now. And I just want to say thank you for coming on SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. Thank you so much.

PROVAL: Thank you, bye-bye.

DIAZ: All right, well, we`ve got more memories of James Gandolfini from the people who knew him best, Tony Soprano spoke with his fists, his fury and his gun. But many people are remembering James Gandolfini`s quiet side and one of those people is Larry King. He spoke with James Gandolfini just weeks before his death. Larry King joins me next.

Right now, SHOWBIZ celebrates James Gandolfini`s biggest moments. Like his first Emmy win for "The Sopranos" and his take on why people relate to Tony Soprano.


GANDOLFINI: He tries to do the right thing and screws everything up by doing that. Kind of like a Ralph Kramden, just a little more dangerous, that`s all.




CHRIS CARLEY, OWNER, HOLSTEN`S BROOKDALE CONFECTIONARY: Tony was a down- to-earth man when the camera wasn`t rolling. One night he brought sushi in for everybody, and we had a -- you know, it was very nice.


DIAZ: Nice, indeed. That was Chris Carley, the owner of Holsten`s Brookdale Confectionary, talking about the late James Gandolfini. The ice cream shop where the final scene of the final episode of the Sopranos was filmed.

Welcome back to SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. I`m Carlos Diaz, in for A.J. Hammer.

Tonight, it`s a SHOWBIZ tribute to the late, great James Gandolfini.

Gandolfini`s sudden death yesterday at 51 shocked the world. He became legendary for playing the role of Tony Soprano on HBO`s hit show, and now we have our own -- our very own legend, the king of the talk show and our very own former CNN colleague, Larry King, who has interviewed James Gandolfini.

Larry, what was your reaction when you first heard this news?

LARRY KING, FORMER CNN TALK SHOW HOST: I was totally shocked, Carlos, and doubly so because I was in Las Vegas yesterday when this happened. I was making a speech last night for the -- this nursing association. And the last time I saw James was in Las Vegas, a couple of months ago. I was his -- sat next to him at a table when we were honoring Mohamed Ali at a benefit for Parkinson`s Disease. It was a wonderful dinner, an incredible night. He was in great spirits.

I`d interviewed him before. I always enjoyed his company. He was a regular guy. He was a down-to-earth guy. If I said, if he was hanging around with you today, you`d go have a pizza with him. If he weren`t an actor, he`d be a blue-collar worker. He was just himself.

What he was, was a great character actor who became a star.

DIAZ: Right.

KING: The only thing I can compare him to is Carroll O`Connor, and "All in the Family." Carroll O`Connor was a great character actor. If you saw him on the street, you`d say, "I know that guy." You wouldn`t know his name. That`s what James was. And then to suddenly have this happen, to become a star in his 40s, having been a character actor and then getting remarried and having a beautiful young daughter, I was -- I could not believe it.

DIAZ: It has been overwhelming to see how much James Gandolfini has touched people`s lives, Larry. Everyone from his fellow actors to the former chief of the CIA, Leon Panetta, who Gandolfini played in "Zero Dark 30." They`re sending out tweets and statements. There are hundreds of them. And I`ve just to read a few of them.

His "Soprano" co-star, Edie Falco, told SHOWBIZ TONIGHT, "He was a man of tremendous depth and sensitivity with a kindness and generosity beyond words."

His co-star on Broadway, Jeff Daniels, told us, "If Broadway has a version of a has a version of a guy you`d want in your foxhole, Jim Gandolfini was mine."

And former CIA chief, Leon Panetta, told SHOWBIZ, "James Gandolfini was a friend and a great actor. We laughed together at the fact that tough guys can have a heart of gold."

Larry, why do you think James Gandolfini captured our imagination in such a powerful way?

KING: Because he was such -- he was so human. You know, that family, that -- that drama of "The Sopranos" was basically a story of a family. It was kind of a -- it was a family story, because the business they were in was mobster business.

He was the perfect father. He was angry when he had to be angry. He was tender when he had to be tender. He had his problems and he saw a psychiatrist. We could associate with him, even though his job was killing people. We felt an association with him.

And the show was so well written and he was so well suited to that character.

He was also great in comedies. I saw that play with Jeff Daniel. He was unbelievable in that play. Funny, he just did it in L.A.. He could play comedy, and he was kind of every man. And we associate with people who have every man.

Diaz: Larry King, thank you so much for sharing your memories of James Gandolfini. have a great night, thank you.

LONG: Thanks guys. We will surely miss him. Thank you.

DIAZ: The remarkable tributes to James Gandolfini, the man and the actor, keep pouring in tonight.

Many believe that James`s lasting legacy will be how he changed the landscape of cable TV forever.



GANDOLFINI: I`m looking for a friend of mine, Clarence from Detroit, traveling with a real pretty girl. You know about him?

PITT: Yes, I know them. They`ve been by here.

GANDOLFINI: You seen them?

PITT: Mm-hmm.

GANDOLFINI: They staying here?


HAMMER: That`s a scene from the 1993 movie "True Romance," with Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini, who played the thug hired to find stolen cocaine.

Such a gentle giant who really made his mark in the ground-breaking HBO series, "The Sopranos." I think most fans of the show would agree that there would not be a beloved Tony Sopranos if it weren`t for James Gandolfini starring in that role.

Deputy managing editor Peter Castro, who had lunch with James Gandolfini even before his "Sopranos" success. So Peter, I`m dying to know: You knew James Gandolfini before he became Tony Soprano on "The Sopranos." Looking back now, how much did that role change him?

PETER CASTROL DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR: I think that role changed him tremendously, because it was the polar opposite of the man that I had lunch with. I mean, this guy, you know, you`re hearing this a lot in the last 12 hours or 24 hours since his tragic death. You`re hearing a lot that he was salt of the earth, that he was really humble and he was.

I mean, the takeaway, it was 15 years ago -- the takeaway that I had from that lunch is that literally not once did he look me in the eye. Not because he was an arrogant man, but because had he felt probably like what am I doing here? I don`t belong. Why am I belong -- you know, having worked with a "People" editor? He really felt, I got the impression, that it was -- it was all too humbling for him. And I never forgot that.

HAMMER: And by all accounts, his success, you know, the three Emmys that he won playing Tony Soprano. His movie career, even his Broadway career didn`t change him into a boastful guy, as you say. He remained very humble. Why do you think he was so humble?

CASTRO: I really think it`s because he put the acting and the art of acting in front of everything, including himself. I mean, this is what to me is so interesting about James Gandolfini the actor.

You know, David Chase created this monster, Tony Soprano, and in spite of that, people, meaning viewers, still loved the character. And then Tony Soprano became progressively harder and harder to like.

A lot of actors in James Gandolfini`s situation would have said to David Chase, "Hey, look, people like the character. You know, you`re making this guy into a monster, and people really like the character. Maybe we can ease up on this stuff."

But James Gandolfini understood that the most important thing was the screenplay and the development of his character. And he didn`t care that a lot of viewers were disappointed in Tony Soprano in the end. He wanted that to happen, because Tony Soprano was a really monstrous character.

DIAZ: Peter, very tough question. In one sentence, what do you think his lasting legacy will be?

CASTRO: I think, you know, we`re in the new age of golden television. I mean we had it for some time in, you know, in the `50s, and then it`s a cyclical thing.

We`re in one right now, and it began undoubtedly with "The Sopranos." And "The Sopranos" would not have been that show without James Gandolfini.

I can really say, without hyperbole, that James Gandolfini is largely responsible for the new age of golden television that we`re in right now. Shows like "Madmen," "Breaking Bad." You know, the list, it goes on and on. And we owe him a great debt of thanks.

HAMMER: That is a very, very well-put sentence right there and a very well-put thought as far as how he will be remembered. Pete Castro from "People" magazine, thank you for joining us.

CASTRO: My pleasure.

And moving on to the must see countdown. The top five true crime movies of all time. The suave and handsome con man played by Leo DiCaprio was unforgettable in "Catch Me If You Can." This movie was so darn great, it`s now a musical on Broadway. But is it a better crime movie than this classic?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m in construction.



DIAZ: "Goodfellas," one of my favorite. This movie is such an icon that it has been preserved by the Library of Congress. Why? Out of respect.

But will "Goodfellas," top our SHOWBIZ Countdown?

Plus, how well did art imitate life in "Goodfellas"? The stars of "Mob Wives" are here with the answer.

And we are remembering James Gandolfini. SHOWBIZ celebrates Gandolfini`s greatest moments, like this one from his appearance on "Inside the Actors Studio."


LIPTON: Finally, Jim, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

GANDOLFINI: Take over for a while. I`ll be right back.

No. No. No. No.



A.J. HAMMER, HOST: Tonight on the "SHOWBIZ Countdown," the top five true crime movies of all time.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m in construction.


HAMMER: "Goodfellas" raw reality. It`s a violent depiction of real-life mobsters. But how close does it come to reality? The stars of "Mob Wives" are here with the answer. They also reveal their stunning personal connections to the real men portrayed on the big screen. But can "Goodfellas" top a headline-making serial killer?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a homicide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police received a letter from the 44-caliber Killer, calling himself the Son of Sam.


JOHN LEGUIZAMO, ACTOR: I just saw the bodies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m the monster.


HAMMER: "Summer of Sam" horror. Spike Lee`s hit film relived the very real terror of a serial killer on the loose in New York City. Michael Badalucco, who plays the notorious serial killer known as Son of Sam is right here. What`s his personal connection to the horrific case?

And what is the No. 1 true crime movie of all time? A special edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT starts right now.

Hello, I`m A.J. Hammer. Thank you so much for watching. Tonight on the "SHOWBIZ Countdown," the top five true crime movies of all time. Yes, those outlandish fictional Quentin Tarantino outlaws are certainly fun to watch, but whether it`s the talkative mobsters of "Goodfellas," the deranged serial killer in "Monster," or the smooth-talking drug kingpin in "American Gangster," a crime drama is even more gripping when it`s based on characters who really lived and on stories that actually happened.

SHOWBIZ TONIGHT can tell you that, when it comes to can`t-miss movie moments, true crime really does pay.


RAY LIOTTA, ACTOR: As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.

HAMMER (voice-over): Maybe movie goers want to be gangsters. How else can one explain the popularity of movies like "Goodfellas," "Pain and Gain" or "Public Enemies"?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is it exactly you do for a living?

JOHNNY DEPP, ACTOR: I`m John Dillinger. I rob banks.

HAMMER: Movies that feature stories of real crimes committed by real people who really lived, and in many cases, killed. Proving that two of the most tantalizing words in crime movies are "true story."

GRAE DRAKE, ROTTEN TOMATOES: You get to see all of these awful, awful things done by a very real person. So you`re living vicariously, and I think that`s what makes true crime amazing.

DICAPRIO: You`re going to have to catch me.

HAMMER: The nature of true crime movie is as varied as crime itself.

DICAPRIO: My name is Frank Taylor. I`m a co-pilot for PanAm.

HAMMER: You have your lighthearted criminal capers, like the ones depicted in "Catch Me If You Can," where former teen con artist Frank Abignale Jr. was played by Leonardo DiCaprio.


HAMMER: There are tense cat-and-mouse crime dramas, Like "American Gangster."

RUSSELL CROWE, ACTOR: My investigation indicates that Frank Lucas is involved with the mafia.

HAMMER: Which shows the battle between 1970s drug kingpin Frank Lucas, who`s played by Denzel Washington...

WASHINGTON: Put me in or out, it ain`t going to change one thing.

CROWE: That`s the way it is.

HAMMER: ... and Richie Roberts, the cop who eventually brought Frank down. Roberts is played by Russell Crowe.

ROBERT DE NIRO, ACTOR: Don`t rat on your friends. And always keep your mouth shut.

HAMMER: And then there are also shockingly violent mob dramas, like "Goodfellas," which depicts the glamorous rise and ugly fall of infamous mobster-turned-informant, Henry Hill, played by Ray Liotta.

RAY LIOTTA, ACTOR: I`m an average nobody.

HAMMER: The real Henry Hill died last year. In 2003, he told CNN what we saw in "Goodfellas" was pretty accurate.


HAMMER: In fact, watching the dramatic push-pull between cops and robbers is what gives true crime movies their appeal. They allow us to experience a life of crime that`s sometimes thrilling, sometimes funny.

JOE PESCI, ACTOR: How the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) am I funny? What the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) is so funny about me?

HAMMER: Just don`t tell the gangsters that.


HAMMER: And we are kicking things off with No. 5 on the "SHOWBIZ Countdown" of top true crime movies with "Goodfellas." So just how close is the movie to real life?

Well, I sat down with two women who have the inside track. They`re cast members of the reality show "Mob Wives," and they have lived life inside the mob.

Ramona Rizzo is the granddaughter of the infamous mobster Benjamin Ruggiero, also known as Lefty Guns. Oscar-winning actor Al Pacino played Ramona`s grandfather in "Donnie Brasco."

Renee Graziano is the daughter of Anthony Graziano, who according to the feds, was a high-ranking member of La Cosa Nostra. Renee`s dad knew Jimmy Burke, a.k.a. Jimmy Conway in the movie "Goodfellas," Robert De Niro played Jimmy in "Goodfellas." So I asked Ramona and Renee how close "Goodfellas" is to the reality.


RENEE GRAZIANO, REALITY TV STAR: Actually, that`s a very scary movie to watch for me, because I don`t think growing up we actually truly know what that life is. And when you see that movie -- I mean, from what I`ve seen in the movies and from what I`ve heard or read, that is probably the closest depiction of that underworld, so to speak. So yes, it`s a little scary to me, actually.

RAMONA RIZZO, REALITY TV STAR: And it graphically shows the men that we love and the lifestyle that we grew up in actually kind of doing their dirt, and you kind of like picture some type of activity that you never really thought like, you know, grandfather, your father would be a part of, because you only knew them as loving people in the household.

HAMMER: Right. He was Grandpa.


HAMMER: I don`t think he was Grandpa Lefty Guns.

RIZZO: No, never, right, never.

HAMMER: Well, I want to take a look at a scene from "Donnie Brasco."


HAMMER: And this is a scene where your grandfather, who`s played by Al Pacino...

RIZZO: Yes, he`s a very nice man. I got to meet him.

HAMMER: So -- and that`s, you know, it`s a tough story but pretty cool. And in this scene he meets Donnie Brasco, who, of course, is played by Johnny Depp.



DEPP: And I`m saying to you is you should give it to somebody who don`t know any better, because that`s a fugazi, all right?

AL PACINO, ACTOR: This is a fugazi? How do you know it`s a fugazi? You looked at it for two seconds.

DEPP: Well, it`s a fake.


HAMMER: It`s a funny scene, obviously not a funny story. Your grandfather meeting up with Donnie Brasco and essentially fooled into thinking he was the real deal. But how close to reality do you think that was in terms of how things went wrong for your grandfather?

RIZZO: Well, I mean, if you really followed the book and whatnot, my grandfather wasn`t the first one who got, you know, introduced to Donnie Brasco. There was another person later on who turned out to be a rat that brought him into the group. And I come from a long line -- my father`s side is jewelers, so that scene would never happen, because my grandfather could have went to my other grandfather and said, "Hey, is this a fugazi or not"?

HAMMER: There`s this great scene in "Goodfellas" where Lorraine Bracco`s character is talking to Ray Liotta`s character and asks, "What do you do for a living?" And he says famously, "Construction." Which sort of shows us, at least in the movies it did, that the mob wives, or the family members, the women in particular, didn`t necessarily know what was really going on until they were in too deep. How close is that to real life?

GRAZIANO: Oh, I don`t know anything. I don`t think any wife, daughter, granddaughter or grandchild knows anything.

RIZZO: I think how I grew up was more like the original "Godfather," where when Michael had married his wife, she didn`t know anything. But as she grew into this lifestyle, certain things allowed you to know things that you really didn`t want to know, where you started maybe asking questions.


HAMMER: So fascinating. My thanks to Ramona Rizzo and Renee Graziano.

And now the SHOWBIZ Countdown takes us to the gritty streets of 1970s New York. At No. 4 on the SHOWBIZ Countdown of the top five true crime movies, Spike Lee`s "Summer of Sam." It`s the movie about the brutal serial killer who called himself Son of Sam.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Double homicide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police received a letter from the .44 Caliber Killer, calling himself the Son of Sam.

HAMMER (voice-over): David Berkowitz, the infamous Son of Sam, is one of America`s most notorious serial killers. A dark-haired monster with a devilish smirk, who shot 13 people in cold blood, killing six right in the heart of New York City.

The great director and famous New Yorker Spike Lee lived through Son of Sam`s 13-month killing spree, and Spike revealed just how terrifying it was in his iconic true crime movie, "The Summer of Sam."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You busy tomorrow tonight? I`d really like to see you again.

HAMMER: Berkowitz`s rampage kept New York on edge during a reign of horror that lasted from 1976 to 1977. And the reason he was killing? He claimed his neighbor was an agent of the devil and used his dog to command him to kill.

MICHAEL BADALUCCO: (inaudible), how did you get in here? Leave me alone! What do you want?

HAMMER: The cops finally caught up with Son of Sam in the red-hot summer of 1977 after the largest manhunt in New York`s history. When the NYPD cuffed Berkowitz, he told them, "What took you so long?"

Now Son of Sam`s infamy has been caught on film forever by Spike Lee`s genius in one of the best true crime films of all time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am the monster, Beelzebub.


HAMMER: Well, the man who brought Son of Sam to life in Spike`s film, is the great Michael Badalucco, and just like Spike, Michael is a native New Yorker who witnessed that terror of that summer. In fact, before he even took the role, he actually had to make sure his mom was OK with him playing New York`s most famous serial killer. Thankfully, she was, and now you have to watch what else Michael revealed to me about our No. 4 true crime film, "Summer of Sam."


HAMMER: How close did Spike Lee`s interpretation of that time come to actually representing what you were really feeling, the real fear that everyone was feeling that summer before Berkowitz was finally captured?

BADALUCCO: Well, you know, what he captured in the film was the tension. He focused on an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx and sort of the denizens of that neighborhood. And they were looking to catch this guy, and they didn`t know how to do it. And they came upon -- there you have Adrian, right. He turned into a punk rocker, and they started suspecting him, and saying, "Wow, this guy is weird. Maybe he`s the guy." And then there was all kinds of tension, and I think that`s what he captured in the movie.

That tension was throughout the city, in the Bronx, in Brooklyn, in Queens. You didn`t know where to turn. You didn`t know if you could go outside; you didn`t know what was lurking in the weeds. And he captured that in the movie, and I was pretty psychotic in the movie, too, I guess.

HAMMER: Yes, yes, you were.

BADALUCCO: Talking to a dog there.

HAMMER: And it was obviously this huge iconic moment in American history, but when you were making "Summer of Sam" with Spike, did you ever think to yourself at any point, "Hey, this could become or is going to become one of the most successful true crime movies of all time"?

BADALUCCO: You know, I never really thought about that. I know when he announced the project, there was a big controversy surrounding it. I mean, a lot of the victims` families would write letters to the newspapers, and they would protest, and people were sort of -- sort of against wanting to relive that whole horrific time.

But he went ahead with it, and I think films at their best sort of show us a way to look at the events like this and put perspective on it, and maybe we could learn something from it.

HAMMER: So we know you had to check with mom, but I got to know, when Spike said, "Hey, Michael, I want you to play this guy, Son of Sam," did you pause for maybe even just a moment and think, "You know what? The guys in the neighborhood, they`re never going to let me live this down?"

BADALUCCO: Yes. You know, he said, I said, "What do you mean? Why would I be the Son of Sam?"

He goes, "You look like him. You look like him." He goes, "You know, the Son of Sam was Italian. His real name was Falco."

I said, "Oh, he was an Italian guy? That`s even worse," I said. "Let me think about this."

But you know what? It was a job, and I thought about it, and like I said, I just wanted to sort of get into, for me as an actor, what was it like to be so evil? What is your mind like? How do you get into the essence of the evil?

You know, Spike didn`t really focus on the character of David Berkowitz, but he focused on, as far as the Son of Sam went, the essence of that evil. You know, what makes a person tick that wants to go out and do this? And that`s what I found very rewarding working on it.


HAMMER: Thanks to the great character actor Michael Badalucco. Such a fascinating perspective on the infamous serial killer, Son of Sam.

And the SHOWBIZ Countdown of the top 5 true crime movies of all time is just heating up. We couldn`t even recognize the beautiful Charlize Theron in this ugly story.


CHRISTINA RICCI, ACTRESS: What are you talking about, you`re [EXPLETIVE DELETED] killing people!

CHARLIZE THERON, ACTRESS: Now listen to me. They`re not coming.


HAMMER: Theron transforms for the film "Monster," the real story of serial killer Aileen Wuornos. But did her haunting, Oscar-winning performance top another Oscar winner?

Denzel Washington became ruthless drug kingpin Frank Lucas in "American Gangster." And next, we`re talking to a movie insider who reveals stunning secrets from the real men portrayed in this film. But which true crime film will top our SHOWBIZ Countdown? Stick around for that.

And now, more true crime movie madness. The hit movie "Pain and Gain," starring Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, portrayed a dark comedic take on the brutal story of real bodybuilders turned steroid- abusing killers.


DWAYNE "THE ROCK" JOHNSON, ACTOR: You said no violence.

MARK WAHLBERG, ACTOR: And I meant it when I said it, I swear to God.

JOHNSON: I cannot kill.

WAHLBERG: Duly noted. Look, when this is over, we`ll all go camping, all right?





RICCI: Lee, who killed that man?

THERON: Who do you think?

RICCI: Oh, my God. They`re coming for us.

THERON: They`re not coming.

RICCI: What are you talking about? You`re (EXPLETIVE DELETED) killing people!


HAMMER: That`s Charlize Theron, who is barely recognizable as real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Charlize won an Oscar for the 2003 movie "Monster," which chronicled the gruesome story of a prostitute who killed seven men in one year. "Monster" coming in at No. 3 on our "SHOWBIZ Countdown" of the top true crime movies ever.

Now, Aileen wasn`t exactly a likable movie character, but you know, some criminals are entertaining characters long before their lives are ever captured on film, and one of those larger-than-life characters is Frank Lucas.

The drug lord ruled Harlem, New York back in the late 1960s and early `70s. His heroin empire was legendary, and his brutality was infamous. Throw in the fact that hip-hop was born in New York around the same time as Frank`s reign, our No. 2 movie almost writes itself. It`s "American Gangster."


HAMMER (voice-over): Frank Lucas was a ruthless drug kingpin and a legendary cool cat. There was only one person who could pull off his persona on the big screen -- Denzel Washington.

WASHINGTON: I was with him every day. I worked for him, I protected him, I looked after him, I learned from him. He probably was rich, but he wasn`t white man rich, see, he wasn`t wealthy.

"American Gangster" revealed Lucas`s unprecedented drug-smuggling ring, going straight to the source in southeast Asia and shipping pure heroin on planes used to return fallen Vietnam servicemen back to the U.S. Lucas was finally brought down in 1976 by federal narcotics officer Richie Roberts, played by Russell Crowe.

CROWE: I`ve met hundreds of parents of dead kids, addicts who OD`ed on your product, and that`s my story for the jury. That`s how I make it all stick.

HAMMER: But what makes this movie one of Hollywood`s best true crime movies is the blend of Harlem hustle, Denzel`s swagger, and the iconic soundtrack by Jay-Z.

And, of course, the legacy of Frank Lucas, a one-of-a-kind American gangster.


HAMMER: It is so remarkable that, as Frank bounced in and out of jail, after that first arrest, he and Richie became friends. They spoke about their unlikely bond with journalist Bob Meadows. It was for a 2007 "People" magazine article. And Bob has a very unique perspective on the facts and the film version of this remarkable relationship. So watch as Bob reveals the inside story behind the unlikely friendship that has stood the test of time.


BOB MEADOWS, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: Certainly it was a surprise, certainly it was. Richie had chased Frank for years and years. Richie is the cop, he`s the tough cop. Frank is the villain. So to see these guys as friends, to see that Richie had paid for schooling for one of Frank`s sons, of course that was astonishing.

HAMMER: So many of hip-hop`s current heavyweights were born in and around Harlem here in New York during Frank Lucas`s rein, including, of course, Sean "Diddy" Combs. Now, his dad was allegedly affiliated with Frank. Do you think that the hip-hop connection may be at least one of the reasons that "American Gangster" had become one of Hollywood`s top true crime movies?

MEADOWS: I think it was more Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe that made this a really astonishing movie. Jay-Z`s album, which is also named "American Gangster" and was released very soon after, that was inspired by the movie, so I think the movie actually inspired hip-hop a bit more than hip-hop inspired the movie.

HAMMER: So Frank and Richie now, older guys, of course, in their golden years. It actually seems to me that there could be another movie. I`m thinking "American Grandpas," I don`t know. Seriously, would you like to see Frank and Richie`s evolution made into a movie, perhaps reflecting this friendship that they seem to have?

MEADOWS: Well, I think that would be a pretty tough sell in Hollywood, but I do think if you had the right cast, you could do it, perhaps say Channing Tatum as Richie and how about Redd Foxx as Frank? I would definitely see that getting five of these, and that might be a hit.


HAMMER: That would be interesting, considering that Redd Foxx has been dead for a whole bunch of years. My thanks again to Bob Meadows.

So what will we name the No. 1 true crime movie of all time? That big reveal is coming up next.

And now more true crime movie madness. Angelina Jolie brings to life a real Hollywood mystery dating back to the 1920s. Jolie stars in "Changeling," as a woman who is reunited with her missing son, only to realize he`s an impostor.


ANGELINA JOLIE, ACTRESS: He`s not Walter. There`s been a mistake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought we agreed to give him time to adjust.

JOLIE: He`s 3 inches shorter. I measured him on the chart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, maybe your measurements are off. Look, I`m sure there`s a reasonable explanation for all of this.

JOLIE: He`s circumcised and Walter isn`t.



HAMMER: And now the main event in tonight`s SHOWBIZ Countdown, our No. 1 true crime movie of all time. What true crime movie could possibly beat a classic like "Goodfellas" or Denzel Washington at his smooth criminal best in "American Gangster?"

Well, how about the true tale of the quick-thinking teenager who cons his way around the country while staying a step ahead of the FBI? Yes, the top grossing true crime movie ever, also tops our SHOWBIZ Countdown. Leonardo DiCaprio`s "Catch Me If You Can."


DICAPRIO: My name is Frank Taylor. I`m a co-pilot for PanAm.

HAMMER: It`s the story of an airline pilot, a lawyer.

DICAPRIO: The defendant is lying.

HAMMER: A doctor.

DICAPRIO: What seems to be the problem?

HAMMER: And an accomplished check forger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are so perfect, the bank doesn`t even know the difference.

HAMMER: Who also happens to be a teenage runaway.

TOM HANKS, ACTOR: He`s just a kid.

HAMMER: 2002`s "Catch Me If You Can" stars Leonardo DiCaprio as real-life legend Frank Abignale Jr., who as a teenager in the 1960s conned his way around the country, literally living a high-flying lifestyle as he was chased by an FBI agent played in the movie by Tom Hanks.

GRAY: "Catch me If you Can" was a very special movie.

HAMMER: How special? "Catch Me If You Can," directed by Steven Spielberg, is the top grossing true crime movie ever.

GRAY: At every point you`re expecting that plot line to be fake. And it wasn`t.

FRANK ABIGNALE JR., FORMER CON MAN: I flew about a million miles.

HAMMER: The real Frank Abignale Jr. recently told CNN one thing we didn`t really see too much of in the movie was how truly lonely he was during his life on the run.

ABIGNALE: I cried myself to sleep. Until I was 19 years old, I spent every birthday, Christmas, Mother`s Day, Father`s Day in a hotel room by myself.

HANKS: You didn`t call to apologize, did you? You had no one else to call.

HAMMER: Abignale eventually was caught and sentenced to prison. But "Catch Me If You Can" has a happy ending. Abignale went to work with the FBI, something he still does.

ABIGNALE: I teach at the FBI Academy as a way of paying back to my country that`s given me a second chance.

HAMMER: So the pursued now helps his pursuers. But thanks to "Catch Me If You Can," we`ll always be able to have fun watching Frank Abignale run.

DICAPRIO: You`re going to have to catch me.


HAMMER: And in a twist that`s stranger than the movie, one of Frank Abignale Jr.`s sons is now an FBI agent.

That`s it for this edition of SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. I`m A.J. Hammer. Thanks for watching.