By Cary Shuman
Local producer Lou Markakis has secured the rights” for the Tony Conigliaro movie.
Markakis, a Lynn English and Emerson College graduate, is working with the Conigliaro family “to bring to the big screen” the story of one of the North Shore’s all-time great athletes, former Boston Red Sox star Tony Conigliaro, who is a graduate of St. Mary’s High School.
Conigliaro, who played for the Red Sox and holds the record for the youngest American League player to hit 100 home runs, was tragically struck down by Jack Hamilton’s fastball on August 18, 1967, fifty years ago this year. Conig, as many called him, returned to baseball for the 1969 season and later attempted a second comeback in the 1975 season before his retirement.
Markakis, who has toyed with the idea for several years, financially secured the rights and has brought in his longtime friend and actor, writer and producer Jay Giannone as his “producing partner” for the film project.
Giannone, who is tasked with developing the screenplay, has a list of credits that include roles in “The Departed”, “Gone Baby Gone”, “Patriots Day”, American Hustle (filmed in part in Lynn) and TV credits most recently Rosewood (Fox) and Scorpion (CBS).
He won “Best Director” at the Los Angeles Film Festival and then at the Boston International Film Festival for his movie, “It Snows All The Time,” a feature film about a Dad suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
“I believe in this project and how much I feel that Tony C. is a hero and an Italian-American hero,” said Giannone. “I have a strong Italian heritage. My family grew up in the North End and my mother’s grandfather came over from Palermo, Sicily. This is an Italian-American story and it’s an honor for me to be able to be a part of this project.
Locally Markakis created, produced, and host the popular North Shore 100 television show that aired locally for eight years and became Boston North TV.
Conigliaro graduated from St. Mary’s High School in Lynn where he was a star athlete. The school gymnasium is named in his honor.
Markakis said the production team will be scouting locations for the movie in Lynn, including St. Mary’s High School and Fraser Field.
“We’re excited to begin this project and make this inspirational story of Tony Conigiliaro’s life in to a movie,” said Markakis.
Richie Conigliaro, speaking on behalf of the Conigliaro family, said he was excited that the project is moving forward.
“It’s great. We’ve been working on it for almost 30 years and finally I think we’ve put the right people together. My brother Billy and I have signed a contract and we think it’s going to be done. We didn’t want to do it unless it was done right. We’re really excited. I think it’s a really inspirational story.”
Richard Conigliaro said he was 12 years old in 1964 when his brother, Tony C., hit a home run in his first at-bat at Fenway Park.
“They had just introduced him to go to bat and he got a standing ovation,” recalled Richie. “Before they could sit down, the first pitch was thrown and Tony hit it over the screen so they never sat down – they kept cheering.”
Once the screenplay is complete, the producing team will be attaching actors to the various roles under the direction of Giannone.
Said Markakis, “At that time, it’s all about connecting the dots and putting it in front of the right people. Stay tuned.”