YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A member of the Mark Wahlberg crew that inspired HBO’s “Entourage” is signed to play Bergen’s Dominick Polifrone, the federal agent who brought down notorious Dumont killer Richard Kuklinski, in the screen version of “The Iceman,” CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned.
Polifrone (top left), Liotta, Ryder, Giannone
“Gone Baby Gone” star Jay Giannone, also widely known for his hip-hop recordings, has the role of Polifrone, who grew up in Hackensack, worked as a detective with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, then became the federal investigator charged with stopping Kuklinski.
“I like Dominick,” Giannone told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “He is a class guy. It’s an honor to be playing him.”
The legendary South Massachusetts scalper-turned-actor has been working hard, having recently filmed a part in Dane Cook’s “Detention” and landed a role opposite Jason Statham (“Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”) in a new crime drama, “Safe.”
Giannone, who trained Leonardo DiCaprio in the ways of “Southies” for “The Departed” (and got himself a role in the popular film) today told his Facebook fans that he also gave it his all to get the part of Polifrone in “The Iceman.”Jay Giannone
Others cast so far in the reported $20 million production include Newark native and “Goodfellas” star Ray Liotta, who plays Roy DeMeo, a Gambino associate whom Kuklinski claimed he worked for and personally killed.
DeMeo, who was believed responsible for 38 murders alone, was actually whacked by members of his own crew in 1983 on the orders of former mob boss Paul “Big Paulie” Castellano.
(Castellano himself became an infamous contract-hit victim, gunned down with his bodyguard, at John Gotti’s behest outside Sparks Steakhouse in Manhattan).
Liotta, who is in the Union High School Hall of Fame, boasts credits that include his role as Shoeless Joe Jackson in “Field of Dreams,” and Detective “Figgsy” Figgis in “Cop Land,” with Robert DeNiro, Sylvester Stallone and Annabella Sciorra — which was primarily shot in pre-gentrified Edgewater.
And although his first film was “The Lonely Lady,” with Pia Zadora, Liotta broke out in his second role — as black t-shirted madman Ray Sinclair in “Something Wild,” with Melanie Griffith and Jeff Daniels.
He also played the real-life Henry Hill in “Goodfellas” and did a highly-praised voice-over in the 2002 video game “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City,” among dozens of other roles in various media. Critics praised several of Liotta’s performances, including as a medical student caring for his mentally challenged brother (Tom Hulce) in “Dominick and Eugene.”
Winona Ryder was cast earlier this month as Kuklinski’s wife, Deborah, and Chris “Captain America” Evans as one of the Iceman’s mentors — and victims: Special Services Op member Robert Pronge.
Kuklinski in state prison before his death; Michael Shannon
As Kuklinski: Michael “Boardwalk Empire” Shannon.
“The Iceman,” directed and co-written by Ariel Vromen, has a tentative 2013 release date.
Polifrone, meanwhile, has led a life that could become its own feature attraction.
The former college linebacker and amateur boxer began with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office 40 years ago but soon moved up to hunting mobsters undercover. By 1976, he was an agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Although he grew up in the suburbs and attended college in the Midwest, Polifrone passed for a city wiseguy. Posing as “Dominick Provenzano,” he helped take down dozens of made men.
These were just a warmup for his biggest case:Ray Liotta, Roy DeMeo
By Kuklinski’s own account — one that was never independently verified — he shot, stabbed, strangled, and poisoned nearly 200 victims. One was blown to bits by a grenade; another was stuffed into a barrel of quick-drying cement in a North Bergen garage.
Then there was the corpse Kuklinski kept frozen for two years in a Mister Softee warehouse off Tonnelle Avenue, also in North Bergen, to mask the time of death.
A medical examiner discovered ice crystals after the body was found on a roadside in Rockland — during the spring.
It’s how Kuklinski got his nickname.
Although he liked to portray himself as a Gambino hit man and enforcer, the 6-foot-4-inch, 270-pounder killed most of his targets for money. First he threatened extortion. Then he convinced them to bring him huge sums of cash.
Posing as an arms dealer, Polifrone elbowed his way into Kuklinski’s circle.
For months, he hung out in a Paterson storefront, where a few pieces of window-dressing merchandise masked back-room prostitution and joker-poker. And although it took more than a year, the Iceman finally called.
“Can you get the white stuff (cyanide)?” he asked during their first meeting. “I need to take care of a couple of rats.”
Sure, Polifrone said, over coffee and danish at a Paterson Dunkin’ Donuts.
He was surprised when Kuklinski called the next day.Talk about ‘back in the day': This is indeed a funky bunch, with Giannone (left), Wahlberg and the rest of the entourage
“That’s when I knew I was over the hump,” Polifrone told me. “I could feel it in my bones. I told the guys, ‘I’m in.'”
“I’ve done it on a busy street where they thought the guy had a heart attack,” Kuklinski says in one conversation that Dominick secretly recorded. “I walked right up to him, made like I was sneezing into my handkerchief to protect myself, and sprayed him in the face.”
Once they had enough evidence to make a case, investigators devised a robbery-murder sting involving a “rich kid” drug buyer — a role that apparently will go to David Schwimmer in Vromen’s film.
According to the plan, Kuklinski would give the fictitious victim a cyanide-laced egg sandwich, then take $85,000 in cash he was supposed to be carrying.
Kuklinski bought it.
During a December 1986 meeting at the Vince Lombardi Rest Stop on the New Jersey Turnpike in Ridgefield, Polifrone gave Kuklinski the egg sandwich and the “poison” — actually quinine prepared in a State Police lab.
Later that day, a squadron of police vehicles converged on Kuklinski’s Dumont house as he and his wife pulled from their driveway. In the trunk, investigators found the sandwich.
The Iceman, as many know, made a cottage industry out of interviews with HBO before he died in March 2006 while serving two life sentences.
Polifrone, meanwhile, was appointed to head the ATF’s office in North Jersey, where he helped get a large amount of illegal guns off the street. He received commendations and awards from U.S. representatives in Washington, D.C., as well as from the state.
He’s now enjoying a second life as a counselor to troubled teens, for which the YMCA of Greater Bergen County honored him this fall.
Kuklinski mugshots through the years
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