Thanks, everyone. My fingers are tingling and my brain numb from trying to answer all the provocative questions. Plus, the dog's barking for a walk. So off I go. Let's do it again sometime. PL

Hi, Reddit community. I spent more than a decade chronicling the real Los Angeles Police “Gangster Squad” that inspired the current film…and considerable debate on Reddit yesterday. So if you want to know what was true, and what was Hollywood dramatization, shoot me questions (not bullets). By way of background:

When the cast of Warner Bros. film version of “Gangster Squad” was preparing to stage the movie’s final confrontation – a wild Tommy Gun shoot-‘em-up between the crew of LAPD cops and the henchmen of the hoodlum Mickey Cohen – Ryan Gosling asked me, “Did any of these guys get killed?” By these guys he meant the real-life members of the real Gangster Squad, which was formed by the Los Angeles Police Department back in 1946 to battle the real Mickey Cohen and other mob figures following a series of shootings that threatened L.A.’s image as America’s sun-washed Garden of Eden. I told Gosling that of the eight original members of the squad, two had been shot and wounded on the job, but before they joined the unit. And the only one killed after the squad was formed, the giant Texan “Jumbo” Kennard, died not in a hail of bullets but when his car struck a bus on a rain-soaked Wilshire Boulevard after a night of drinking. In the film version of “Gangster Squad,” in contrast, one of the squad had already been knocked off by Mickey’s men and another was about to get it in the shootout being staged as Gosling and Josh Brolin stormed an historic L.A. hotel where the film’s Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) was holed up.

The embellishment should surprise no one familiar with the ways of Hollywood, or the conventions of films on small, elite crews of crime-fighters such as “The Magnificent Seven” or “The Untouchables” – a couple of the good guys are going to bite the dust before the rest prevail over the forces of evil. In this case, Warner Bros. made no secret of the cinematic liberties being taken. As a number of Reddit commentators noted yesterday, the film did not even describe itself as “based on” a true story, it opted for the lesser “inspired by.” On location that night, as Gosling and Brolin grabbed their machine guns to have it out with Sean Penn, the main producer, Dan Lin, termed the unfolding action as, most basically, “Boys with toys.” In real life, the men of the LAPD’s Gangster Squad indeed carried Thompson submachine guns to intimidate hoods like Mickey but never once fired them. The only time a squad member tried to pull the trigger, when confronting a brother of the notorious Al Capone, the Tommy failed to fire.

I bring this up because of the extensive discussion on Reddit yesterday inspired by a wonderfully provocative post by the granddaughter of Sgt. Jack O’Mara, the squad leader played by Brolin, declaring, “The movie butchered my grandfather’s life.” Well, I first met the real Sgt. O’Mara in 1992 and spent many afternoons in his living room, and soon after met the roguish Sgt. Jerry Wooters (the character now played by Gosling), all while researching what first became a series of articles in the Los Angeles Times, “L.A. Noir: Tales from the Gangster Squad,” then recently was expanded into the nonfiction book, “Gangster Squad,” which indeed is quite different from the film. So, as I said, shoot…with questions.

Proof Me and Ryan Gosling The real Gangster Squad guys The movie Gangster Squad guys

Comments: 670 • Responses: 62  • Date: 

readingguy215 karma

Did Ryan Gosling care that much about what the real guys were like or did he want to play the role his way?

Was Sean Penn easy to work with or is he as big of a pain as people say he is?

PaulLieberman282 karma

Goslir did meet the two sons of the real Jerry Wooters and was eager to hear about their "old man". In fact they told him how the real Jerry Wooters would flick the ashes from his cigarette into his pants cuffs--so Ryan started doing that during the filming. I'm not sure it ever made it onto the screen. As for Penn, he definitely played the character of Mickey Cohen his way...very BIG, as critics have noted, like a Batman or James Bond villain. The real Mickey was not like that--he was a showman--but Penn's portrayal more was a riff on the tradition of Gangster Films. This one is set in 1949, the year Warner Bros released "White Heat" in which Jimmy Cagney winds up atop an oil refinery shouting, "Made it, Ma, Top of the World." real big, in other words. That film was based loosely on the Ma Barker gang, by the way....but no Barker ever bought it that way!

Jerle165 karma

What's Ryan Gosling like?

PaulLieberman384 karma

I found him to be very nice, unaffected and serious about his acting. Though this was an action film, in which a lot of the action is over-the-top, and not meant to be realistic, he even would question whether little bits seemed how Josh Brolin slides him a Tommy gun clip in the final big shootout. They actually changed the bit after Ryan questioned it.

coleytrickle155 karma

The movie gangster squad is a little more ethnic than the real guys.

Not a question, just thought it was funny.

PaulLieberman215 karma

Right, that still was the era of White Men Rule. As I write in the book version of Gangster Squad, blacks back then weren't part of the club, they got the club. But the real O'Mara really did have a friendly rivalry with the pioneering black officer Tom Bradley, who went on to become L.A.'s mayor. They used to race each other from Police Academy days on. O'Mara thought he was fast but Bradley was faster, a former college track star, in fact.

username02120 karma

Ok. How did the name 'Gangster Squad' come about?

PaulLieberman205 karma

That's what this real squad was called when it was formed in 1946. The LAPD actually had used that before for a squad that battled Prohibition rum-runners. Once the famous William Parker ("Whiskey Bill") became Police Chief, however, he changed the name to the Intelligence Division. But some of the original members, like O'Mara, kept calling themselves the Gangster Squad.

BrutalCassius115 karma

I currently live in LA and I'm from DC. While my perception may be incorrect it seems to me that the mobs and more organized crime units have basically been replaced by street gangs (ms 13, bloods, etc.). At this point, the old mobsters have been glorified and people seem to think they were preferable to the new gangs (as though we could just choose between competing proposals). Is such a criminal nostalgia justified or were the old guys actually much worse than the common man realizes?

PaulLieberman113 karma

Brilliant. One of the things that fascinated me was how city leaders in L.A. for decades obsessed with invading gangsters -- as if evil only came from without. But the number of gangster shooting in the city was miniscule compared to those committed by street gangs bred right in the heart of the city. If you read the book, I hope you reach the cemetery scene and see how that makes the point.

vartanman106 karma

How did you make sure you aren't going to get screwed over by Hollywood accounting, like all those other book authors?

PaulLieberman191 karma

Easy--I get not a penny of the box office so don' have to fret about that form of Hollywood screwing.

TheMadFlyentist96 karma

As someone who knows the true story well, were there any aspects that were embellished in the movie that particularly annoy you?

PaulLieberman193 karma

I am the one most in touch with the surviving old cops and the families of the dead ones, so I have sympathy for their concern with the movie's violence, as the granddaughter of O'Mara expressed yesterday. While some shrugged "It's only a movie" or even relished the attention given the Gangster Squad, after all these years, others felt their loved ones had been turned into gunmen not much better than the hoods.

mcaustic94 karma

I would rather see a movie with an actual gosling as a detective. Would you write that movie?

PaulLieberman141 karma

Sounds good. Sold.

gangnam_style74 karma

How faithful is the movie to your book? Is there anything they changed that you're upset about?

PaulLieberman171 karma

The movie is very different--it's openly heroic, you know the good guys will win and the hero get the girl. In real life, L.A. cops never got a conviction in a mob rubout for 50 years! And when they finally got one--in the killing that culminates my book--it goes the way of Noir. After their 15 years pursuing Mickey Cohen, real justice for him comes in the form of a lead pipe to the head, in prison...

DiscoPanda74 karma

What are some of your favorite books?

PaulLieberman224 karma

I re-read Gatsby every year or two just to earn the right to again read the final two pages, which leave me in awe every time, and totally humbled.

ObiWanBonogi14 karma

Nice! Do you have any thoughts or expectations on the film adaptation of Great Gatsby coming out in a few months?

PaulLieberman12 karma

Not until I've seen it. But I will.

Salacious-67 karma

What inspired you to write their story in the first place?

PaulLieberman162 karma

The post-war "Noir" era was the period that to this day defines Los Angeles...and this was a rare untold story from that era, because the squad had been so secretive. (The Noir worldview to me was: "Truth is not found in the sunshine and justice not obtained in a marble courtroom.")

nevillewearsprada60 karma

Hi! Thanks for doing this AMA! I loved the movie, and am really interested to learn the real story. How sensationalized was Mickey Cohen's rise to power and apparent threat to the city of Los Angeles? Was he truly an Al Capone type, with the possibility of controlling the entire city, perhaps the whole west coast? Or was he more of a wannabe?

PaulLieberman93 karma

Great question. The movie is set in 1949, when Mickey really was causing havoc in the city. Google up the old Life magazine photo of him in front of dozens of huge banner headlines he was generating almost daily as he generated a new scandal almost every week. That said, he mostly was being shot at by the Italian hoods -- not shooting at others -- and in later years he became a self-parody. He actually sold shares in his life story to any sucker who would bite. As I've said frequently, today he'd have a reality TV show, no question. But back in 1949, when the movie is set, he was perceived as a menace to L.A. Some of the language in the film may seem overblown but that year the mayor really did go on the radio to deliver a "We're going to get you Mickey Cohen!" speech you wouldn't believe.

theungod46 karma

Slightly unrelated, but what do you think of Boardwalk Empire?

PaulLieberman84 karma

I like Boardwalk, having walked the real one as a boy--indeed, my mother was duped into buying a diamond ring at a trumped-up auction there. Wild.

FatMike42045 karma

What is your favorite sex position?

PaulLieberman290 karma

My position is I'm for it.

underdabridge39 karma

for it





PaulLieberman80 karma

Please don't tell my wife, or Betty's family.

metalhead20445 karma

What do you think of the videogame, " L.A. Noire"?

PaulLieberman62 karma

Great colorful era--why not a game? But I'm not a video game guy, too old.

Tomasfoolery25 karma

That's not true, sir. You are possibly missing some great storytelling.

I will accept too busy, though. Thanks for the AMA!

PaulLieberman46 karma

You know, you're right. I'll try it next week.

Lokais44 karma

What's your favorite mob movie?

PaulLieberman87 karma

Godfather I, II and Goodfellas are like heroin in my veins (if I took the stuff) even if the Godfather movies mythologize the mob. (I tend to be a demythologizer)

charlesdbelt42 karma

Did you ever meet Emma Stone? If so, was she nice?

PaulLieberman101 karma

Alas, she was not filming when I was on the set. My wife, of course, asked that same I told her not to believe anything they wrote about us in the gossip columns. (Everyone involved said she was very sweet and a real pro...I am amused, though, when entertainment media ask her what it was like being paid to kiss Ryan Gosling...that's what they want to know.)

jivebuns40 karma

One of the things I was most disappointed with in the movie was that it really failed to get more into the past life of Mickey Cohen. I know they brought up he was a boxer, but besides that, there wasn't very much mention of how he ended up with his power in California. As someone who is very interested in the gangster era of prohibition and on, I found myself googling Mickey Cohens name to find more information about where he was from, how he came to his power, etc. My question to you is, what roll did gangsters of an earlier era (such as Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Segal, etc) play in Mickey Cohen's rise and his control over LA?

Another question that wasn't really brought up in the movie, did the Chicago gangsters just sit by when they found out that Mickey was murdering their men? From my previous understandings of gangsters of the era, I doubt they would let something like that go unpunished.

One more question, what did the Jewish mobsters of the rest of the country think of Cohen and his power in LA? Did they endorse him, or did he kind of just take LA by himself and for himself? Did he have connections in Chicago/NYC?


PaulLieberman46 karma

Very good question. I too view the Gangster Movie ideally as the flip side to America's great Horatio Alger fable, except the rags-to-riches rise is in the criminal world...and usually ends in a flaming fall, as you see in the "Gangster Squad" film. There are hints in movie of Mickey's humble past (as when he talks about being a newsboy) but not much. As I've indicated above, the local Mafia boss Jack Dragna, who had tied to Chicago, indeed kept trying to kill Mickey and did get some of his men. Mickey himself did have ties to big-time Mafia types back East, though not as strongly as Bugsy Siegel, his mentor, who had grown up with Lucky Luciano. That said, many old-line monsters had to see Mickey as a looney-tune because of how he promoted himself, posing for Life magazine with his pet doggy ("Tuffy") for instance...or going on national TV (a new show by then little known Mike Wallace) to taunt the L.A. cops and the "stupidity squad." No sane gangster did stuff like that.

Make_it_Snow37 karma

I know you're going to get a lot of questions about your film but I'd like to know something that taps into your experiences in Hollywood.

Was it what you expected? How did you protect your material and what kind of legal trouble would they have been in if they had just stolen your material and done the movie without you, cutting you out of the loop?

PaulLieberman53 karma

Good question--that's happened to me, of course, as it has with many writers. The main producers did often seek my input in this case, even though they did not have to. But they also were quite open about their attempt to make a mass market action film that would be very different than my printed versions. You sometimes have to accept what authority you have or don't have...and go along for the ride. A studio spending $60 million on a film earns the right to make it as it wishes.

e30fern31 karma

I have not read your book, but does it trash Burbank as much as the movie does? If so, I will order it now.

PaulLieberman45 karma

Yes, Burbank was the bastion of corruption. The police chief was caught dining at Mickey's home, bought a big yacht and actually received a cash payment while attending an FBI training program back east. Mickey actually had a gambling joint by the stables there. That said, the current Burbank chief and some of his men attended the presentation we gave last week (Ellroy and I) at the LA Police Museum and laughed with everyone else at that past.

itsalrightt29 karma

My boyfriend has been obsessed with your book since August, and can't wait to go see your movie. We've never been to a movie together, and have been dating for two years. Thanks for finally bringing him back to the world. ;) Also, I had read some parts of the book as well, and I really enjoyed the detail you put into it.

PaulLieberman39 karma

Thanks. I'm as obsessive as those cops in getting the full history. And three great researchers helped. (Bless you Nona Yates).

mi-16evil26 karma

How do you react to this post from the granddaughter of Jack O'Mara who said that the film was widely inaccurate and altered her grandfather's story significantly?

PaulLieberman52 karma

I've had years of contact with her and her remarkable mom, Jack O'Mara's daughter -- and a Harvard Ph.D! -- and they are right in stating that the film character is very different (and much more violent) that the real man. The real O'Mara was a fist-ready tough cop but told me he'd only fired his gun once, at a robbery suspect. And his greatest weapon was his cleverness. But the filmmakers wouldn't disagree that they stretched things in the name of drama.

BIGcat18021 karma

Was Jerry Wooters really the party persona portrayed? Was Emma Stone's character real or was she just added to give more to the storyline?

PaulLieberman50 karma

The Emma Stone character is a total cinematic creation, along the lines of the old Lauren Bacall characters in her films with Bogart. But Wooters really was a wild guy. He came out of Vice, a world (sometimes lawless) apart even in the LAPD. And while he eventually married (a stewardess, he was quite the ladies man earlier in life, particularly in the war years, after he was shot down overt the pacific while taking photos of Japanese positions out of a bomber. He later kept all sorts of photos of him with various nurses, good-looking ones too. LAter, he'd sometimes show other cops films that vice had confiscated, and show 'em right in the Police Academy--they were not the sort made by Disney.

callannn19 karma

Are you happy with the final outcome of the film and its portrayal of the "Gangster Squad"?

PaulLieberman49 karma

I'm a nonfiction guy so my prejudice always is in favor of the true story, as in the book. I think that knowing it is true gives it extra power.

djtoell18 karma

Would you rather have a shootout with 100 duck-sized gangsters, or 1 gangster-sized duck?

PaulLieberman116 karma


eclecticismgunfight16 karma

How much have you been influenced by James Ellroy's work?

PaulLieberman27 karma

He is fantastic and the true authority on this era. We had dinner last week in L.A. then did a joint presentation at the Los Angeles Police Museum, which now has a Gangster Squad exhibit. Ellroy and the head of the museum also interviewed one of the characters in my book, the original bug man Con Keeler, before he died, especially about the squad's role in the Black Dahlia murder case. The squad was brought in on that when the police brass feared that Homicide was botching the case. That's a chapter in the book.

jacobmhkim13 karma

What was Williams College like in the 60's/70's? I saw on the school website that you're an alum.

PaulLieberman27 karma

Right. All male when I arrived. That's how dumb I was then. But a beautiful place and something of a refuge from the insanity of the '60s.

Pockycrunch13 karma

Because they bought the rights to make a movie out of your book, how much say did you get to have in writing the screenplay and being on set to help with the film production?

PaulLieberman43 karma

I often joke that you could measure my authority on either a 1-to-10 scale or 1-to-100 and it would be the same, zero. And I accepted that. But my input was solicited often, which I appreciated, even if others thought some of my suggestions were nutty. (I suggested a Louis Armstrong song for the ending, for instance, not what they envisioned in targeting a youngish audience.)

anonomousrex9 karma

Which song!?

PaulLieberman14 karma

"Lucky Old Sun" which was a hit in '49 when the film is set, though Armstrong did his later. Check that out and see what you think. It's an homage to hard working folk and simple pleasures, which these characters earned in their lives. And the sun of course speaks to the sun-washed city where too much played out in the shadows.

AssassinAragorn13 karma

  1. What was the most untrue part of the movie? In other words, what aspect of the movie was the farthest from the actual reality?
  2. Did they fabricate any characters?
  3. I haven't had the opportunity yet to read your book; was Sgt. O'Mara as devoted to justice as the movie suggested, or did they turn him into a gritty hero in order to have a shiny protagonist?
  4. How accurate was the movie with Mickey Cohen's actual reign on Los Angeles? Was it as bad as the movie made it out to be?

PaulLieberman22 karma

!) Well, there were not all those wild shootouts on the streets of L.A. in real life--yeah, a few gambling hoods were knocked off, and then a batch of Mickey's men. But the Tommy gun action in the film was inspired more by the tradition of the genre. Also, as I said above, Mickey was more the target than the shooter when there was gunplay between him and Jack Dragna's crew ... 2) As I've said, the love interest was a creation. Mickey did have a bunch of glamor arm-candy but some of that was just for show -- he staged an engagement to one burlesque dancer who actually was happily married. In the book, she talks about how that was all a show to enhance Mickey's image. 3) As I've said, Mickey was pretty badass through 1949 (when the movie is set) but after that there was so much heat on him he was mostly a self-parody, the used-to-be playing the big gangster (when he wasn't in prison)

schmitzie11 karma

As a non-fiction writer and researcher, are there other stories from this period that you may have stumbled upon while writing "Gangster Squad"?

PaulLieberman31 karma

Yes, sure. But the appeal of this one was that it had almost been lost to history. Another LAPD unit, the Hat Squad, had gotten a lot of attention -- it was part of the Robbery Division -- but not the Gangster Squad, which was much more undercover. What's more, the killing of Jack "the Enforcer" Whalen invariably was glossed over, just a footnote in accounts of Mickey Cohen's life. The tale of Whalen, and his family, was incredibly rich. I hope people read my book just to learn about his father, Freddie the Thief, perhaps L.A.'s greatest conman of that era--a character right out of The Sting.

BloodyNora10 karma

Are there are parts in the film where you would have cast someone completely different to whoever actually was given the role?

PaulLieberman26 karma

No, the casting was terrific. Though others have questioned Sean Penn as the Jewish and very short Mickey Cohen, I thought his intensity made him a great choice to portray a gangster, as Cagney, Brando, DeNiro, etc., had done in the past. He's a brilliant actor. Whether the choices he made in this case were right, you can judge yourself. It was interesting that the New Yorker thought he nailed it, while other critics have thought he went overboard.

bosquis410 karma

Did the whole "good guy tries to steal the bad guy's girl" part of the story actually happen?

PaulLieberman24 karma


buildarocketboys9 karma

Hi Paul - I've not read the book - but how did the real-life guys feel about persuing someone so public and 'dangerous' only to have him killed in prison instead?

Also - did you ever ask them to compare their feelings about crime then and now?


PaulLieberman24 karma

Mickey was not killed in prison, only crippled. But that's a question that gets to the core of my book. The real O'Mara was a very straight-laced guy, the head usher at his church, etc. He believed in good and evil and heaven and hell and was confident that he and Mickey would not wind up in the same place. the end, he seemed to accept the Noir worldview that justice often was obtained not the way they teach in grade school but in the shadows. How Mickey got it was a prime example.

Toughgetweird7 karma

I greatly enjoyed the film as an entertaining story with elements of gangster and noir. Thanks for helping to bring it to life. I have a question about the noir genre: Why do you think noir is so neglected today, even though the major films that pay it homage tend to do well (LA Confidential, Payback)? Particularly given that society today mirrors certain elements of the 1950s - veterans, distrust of the establishment, paranoia, etc.

PaulLieberman18 karma

Terrific question. The film version of "Gangster Squad" certainly has some Noir lines and atmosphere, but is not a Noir statement--it's an action film in which the good guys triumph over the bad. From a commercial standpoint, I suppose that's viewed as more appealing to a mass audience. "L.A. Confidential," in contrast, was a Noir statement -- little was what it seemed at the end. Here's a question for you. Which story appeals to you more: 1) new York cop sees street person going shoeless in Times Square and buys him a new pair of boots; or 2) N.Y. cops buys street character a new pair of boots...and street guy promptly sells 'em and goes back to his spot on the sidewalk, shoeless again? Which is a more salable story? Which captures your view of the world better?

Punch_A_Lunch7 karma

What is your opinion on the mustaches? On the Rotten Tomatoes rating?

PaulLieberman28 karma

Don't know it, but vigorous commentary (and criticism) is a strength of our society.

AteTheTuna5 karma

so i hear that the scene where they shoot up a movie theater was hugely controversial and there was even talk about it being cut from the movie all together. What was the reaction from the the crew and actors to the resemblance of the tragedy and the scene shot in the film? I haven't seen the movie yet but i'm assuming the scene has not been cut, correct me if i'm wrong.

PaulLieberman14 karma

that scene was cut after the Colorado tragedy, and a new scene shot in its place. That's why release of the film was delayed for four months. In my view, the inconvenience to a piece of entertainment commerce was insignificant when compared to the real human toll--the studio did the right thing.

Maloneypony4 karma

What are some of the other projects you've worked on since the original articles/book? Do you typically stick to this era of history or do you just find a story you want to know more about and run with it?

PaulLieberman10 karma

No, I'm not obsessed with this era. I actually conducted the GS research over many years while I was pursuing other stories. I like ones from the fringe. I spent several years tracking a hospital killer, for instances -- one of those so-called Angels of Death, except there's nothing angelic about any of them. Medical/hospital killers top the list of mass killers in our society because killing is easy to get away with in a hospital, where people are expected to die. But what intrigued me was how the public at large often thinks there killers acted out of mercy for the sick and elderly--when that's never the case, it's a delusion to underplay the horror of what they do. I called that one, "The Graveyard Shift."

Huitzilopostlian4 karma

How much hs the movie boosted the book recent sales? I know I'm picking it up ASAP... or maybe after watching the movie, would like to enjoy the movie, insted of keep dissing it in my head.

PaulLieberman6 karma

I know that I -- and the families of these old cops -- would like people to know the real-life story of them, for all their flaws. But don't expect to find all sorts of wild shootouts in the book. The Whalen killing that climaxes the tale is rather chilling, I think. Everything before is leading you to that deadly night in the Valley.

Skuggsja3 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA!

Do you have any thoughts on how the classic, Italian gangsters of the '40s differ from the various criminal syndicates of today, like the Mexican cartels, the Russian mafia and the remnants of the Sicilian families?

PaulLieberman7 karma

The ones today are much more scary and violent. I did some work relating to the Armenian mob around L.A. and was advised by homicide cops not to see the leader suspected of having ordered a series of hits in the garment industry--he might not understand the usual ground rules that you don;t rub out cops...or writers.

SiirPatron3 karma

What was your favorite scene in the movie?

PaulLieberman7 karma

I loved the raid on the Burbank casino where a lot of the customers are dressed as movie extras. That was very funny and actually somewhat true to life -- Mickey's "ranch" casino by the stables did attract such a crowd. And there were frequent raids there, just without the shootouts you see in the film.

cycling_chef3 karma

Lets say you didn't know anything about the original gangster squad, how would you rate the movie? Was it still enjoyable?

PaulLieberman7 karma

Hey, my sister liked it and she's an old Beat poet type. But my wife, an elementary school educator, had to close her eyes at some of the violence.

botanyisfun3 karma

Do you think an accurate mobster vs. cops movie could be made that would grab audience's attention? Or will Hollywood need to always embellish things?

PaulLieberman2 karma

Yes to the first, but that doesn't mean it could earn back a $75 million budget. Probably yes to the second -- John Irving has a character in one of his books say he can take any real story and make it better with a little tweaking.

turdferguson11133 karma

As someone who grew up and lived in Los Angeles up until recently, I have always been interested in this part of the city's history. Are there any books, articles or documentaries you would recommend checking out?

PaulLieberman5 karma

James Ellroy and Walter Mosley's fiction, of course, and going back a bit, Raymond Chandler -- the story "Red Wind" contains one of the greatest Noir passages anywhere. But check out historian Kevin Starr's work too -- it's astonishing in its detail.

xenzii2 karma

How well do you think Mickey Cohen was portrayed in the film compared to real life events?

PaulLieberman9 karma

As I said, that portrayal is as much a riff on past movie gangsters as the real Mickey -- he was much more press-friendly in real life, certainly. He'd hold court along the Sunset Strip. He also hired the husband of one of the city's leading columnists as sort of his personal PR man. If you read the book, you'll learn how the squad got revenge on that columnist and her hubby.

ncollogan2 karma

How did you feel about the theater shooting scene being taken out of the film, and how difficult was it to rewrite the film after it was removed?

PaulLieberman5 karma

I didn't write the script. That was Will Beall--a former LAPD cop turned writer.

KafkaOnReddit2 karma

As a journalist (unemployed/freelancer) myself, I'd like to ask you what you think about the state of our class nowadays. I'd like to ask you as well what was the story you enjoyed most, both covering it yourself and covered by another journo. Keep on the good work!

PaulLieberman7 karma

Despite the sad economic state of most anything associated with the printed word, I remain in awe of some of the work people do, especially when they do the hard work of digging up original material. At the top of the list currently is Lawrence Wright's work on Scientology, first published in the New Yorker, now in a book. I have no use, in contrast, for people who make their living recycling the material of others or just spinning blah-blah. Down with talking heads. Down with blah-blah.

whitetzor2 karma

What does Ryan gosling drink in the movie?? It's that orange soda looking drink

PaulLieberman8 karma

That's "Nehi," a very popular orange soda back then. The family of the real Wooters laughed at that because the real guy was a big (hard) drinker, as most of these men were. But Ryan used the character's going to softer drink as a way of showing his newfound commitment to the job, when he joined the squad.

youngli0n2 karma

My favourite scene in the movie (that i can remember anyways) was the shooting where the shoe shine kid got killed. was there actually a shoe shine kid that jerry had that kinda "walk by and talk for a bit" relationship?

PaulLieberman6 karma

Made up.

snoaj2 karma

Why did they stuck with the working title?

PaulLieberman17 karma

Don't know. But it seemed to the point.

Uluvmylean1 karma

I would just like to thank you for spending so much time and effort and passion into writing such a brilliant book. I couldn't put it down for days.

PaulLieberman3 karma

Thanks. An old family friend, in her 90s, said she had the book by her bedside and kept trying to read it each night...but kept falling asleep! I told her I charged extra for that service.

iama_pandagurl1 karma

Always wanted to know if the families got any money from their relations being in the book and then being turned into a movie. Or did all the money go to you. How does that work out?

PaulLieberman3 karma

I did not pay anyone, as is the usual practice in journalism or nonfiction writing. Of course, by the time the film was made, all the main real-life characters were dead. One secondary character was still ticking, if barely, and I talk about my interaction with him in the afterword to my book. I don't know what financial arrangements the studio made.

cosmicomet031 karma

Thanks for doing an AMA!

I am currently trying to write a book that I hope someday could become a screenplay (I'll probably let someone else adapt it). Any advice for someone trying to get into writing for Hollywood?

I've read some Syd Field and Vogler's The Writer's Journey but since I am writing the book that I hope the screenplay can be based on, is there any books you would recommend?

Once again, thanks for being awesome!

PaulLieberman2 karma

Yeah, trust your instincts but seek input, and criticism, from those more experienced (and not a friend or loved one likely to puff you up). Then have the courage to risk rejection.

mrlasamba1 karma

How much influence did you have during production?

PaulLieberman1 karma

Answered above--little or none, but that was understood from the get-go.

dick_for_tits1 karma

Who was your favorite "character" both in reality and in the film?

PaulLieberman4 karma

In real life, I very much admired O'Mara, especially after I learned how he cared for his wife, Connie, after she was disabled by a stroke. That was his finest moment as a man, beyond anything he did as a cop. But Wooters, the rogue, was the most interesting character, as rogues tend to be. I hope you learn what happened to him after his police career...and how he used his police pension.

spamsnorten0 karma

Were you happy with how the movie came out? No offence, I saw it and thought it was very poor and cheesy!

PaulLieberman3 karma

The critics have made a few reasonable points. No question, some things could have been done more effectively. (The same applies to my book.)

Mikeydoes0 karma

What is the craziest thing you have seen in real life?

Were you pleased with the movie?

What do you wish they would have done differently?

What is something you wish they added?

PaulLieberman2 karma

Wow, let me ponder question one awhile. As for the film, EVERYONE has their own ideas how any scene should be shot, and how every movie should go, and I'm no different. But I'm the last person to ask about an action film--I was not the target audience, trust me, and the producers even joked about that. Do you know Altman's "McCabe and Mrs. Miller"? I probably would have crafted this more along those lines, taking a de-mythologizing approach to the Gangster and Noir epic.

MackswellSinBad0 karma

Was the (deleted) scene where there was shooting in a movie theatre added or real? How do you feel on the subject now?

PaulLieberman3 karma

That was a scene invented by the screenwriter Will Beall. It was very good cinema -- the screen's showing the great stampede scene in John Wayne's "Red River." But the studio made the right decision scrapping it after the shooting at the theater in Colorado.

eCupcakes-3 karma

can you submit some proof to the mods?

Lokais1 karma

It's sorta jumbled, but he posted a pic of himself with a hi reddit sign and then a pic of him with gosling, so seems like the real deal.

eCupcakes-1 karma

his name isn't mentioned in the post.. its very confusing? *edit: is he Paul Lieberman?

PaulLieberman3 karma

Yes, that's correct--Paul Lieberman; pix show me with Ryan and hello Reddit blurb, as well. So, hello Reddit community--you sure keep the questions coming.