“To me he was an uncle,” Nicholas Celozzi says about Sam Giancana -— his great uncle, actually. “He was a generous man, took care of all his family and a had great sense of humor. An intelligent man.”
To the public, Giancana was the 1960s Outfit boss whose 1975 murder in his Oak Park kitchen remains officially unsolved.
“To me and to the rest of the family, he was family,” Celozzi says. “We knew but did not see what he did. We weren’t naive, we can and did read the paper, there were a lot of table discussions about it. If anything, it made us a bit more paranoid. We started looking over our shoulders a bit more.”
Along with director Dimitri Logothetis and executive producer Marie Pizano of Nashville-based MVP3 Entertainment Group, Celozzi produced the documentary Momo: The Sam Giancana Story, which has a red carpet premiere Saturday, March 10 at Noon at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St.
The filmmakers say Momo sheds new light on Giancana’s murder, allegations surrounding his collusion with the CIA on attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, as well his alleged ties to both the election and assassination of John Kennedy.
“I believe people will get a chance to ‘re-learn’ history, the way it happened, not as we were told,” says Celozzi, a veteran actor and producer. “The Kennedys and their relationship with Sam, Sam’s involvement with the CIA and Castro and possibly the assassination of President Kennedy — don’t want to give to much away — the election and how much the government was involved with organized crime. Shocking.”
Momo grew out of The Outfit, the scripted series that Logothetis, Celozzi and Ted Field of Radar Pictures have spent several years developing for Warner Bros. and TNT. That show “centers around Chicago organized crime during the height of its success,” Celozzi says, and “includes names like Accardo, Aluppa, and Cerone.”
When he was writing the series, Celozzi says he saw the real value in the documentary. “It took a while to convince my family” to participate. “They weren’t quite sure in the beginning. It is difficult to open up and let the world see the emotion. Something that you’ve kept hidden for so long.
Celozzi was amazed at what his cousins, Giancana’s daughters Bonnie and Francine, were able to deliver with home movies. “Their openness and candid approach to the project just fueled me going forward.”
The producers are working on domestic theatrical and cable deals for Momo. British distributor Off the Fence is selling European rights.
Pizano and Celozzi are producing the feature Pop Star, set to shoot here this summer.
Celzozi is also a local producer on the Chicago version of VH1’s Mob Wives.