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Chicago corruption movie had big producer, ‘wonderful script’ — but not enough money

Hollywood heavyweight Adam McKay says no one wanted to bankroll ‘Crook County,’ about the ’80s sting known as ‘Operation Greylord.’

FBI mole Terrence Hake (pictured in 1994) was to have been the central figure in a movie about Operation Greylord.
Sun-Times file

A film called “Crook County,” about a real-life corruption sting in Chicago, was announced with some fanfare in 2017 but never actually got made. On Monday, its executive producer explained why.

“We weren’t able to get financing for it. We tried and tried,” said Adam McKay, the former Chicagoan who directed “The Big Short” and “Vice.”

“Crook County” was to have detailed a 1980s sting that put Cook County judges and other public officials behind bars. “Operation Greylord” was named after a racehorse agents found while flipping through the Sun-Times sports section, according to “Operation Greylord,” a book co-authored by FBI mole Terrence Hake.

“Operation Greylord” resulted in the indictment of 48 lawyers, eight police officers, 17 judges (15 convicted), 10 deputy sheriffs, and a state senator.

Actor Emory Cohen (“Brooklyn”) was scheduled to star as Hake, who posed first as a dishonest prosecutor and later as an unethical defense attorney in the investigation.

The husband-wife team of Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly wrote the film and were set to direct. “They had a wonderful script that was ready to go — we just couldn’t quite get the dough for it,” McKay said.

Adam McKay says the proposed film about a 1980s Chicago corruption case is “still a project that I just love and love.”
Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images

McKay holds out hope that Gaudet and Pullapilly will find the funding necessary to make the film a reality.

“But you know the way it works with these movies, they’re never done,” says McKay. “It doesn’t mean we’re never going to make it, but at that time it was very hard to get it made. … But, man, I love that story — it’s so incredible. This is still a project that I just love and love.”

In the meantime, the Second City alumnus and Academy Award-winning screenwriter and producer stays busy as the host and producer of “Death at the Wing,” a narrative podcast detailing the nuances surrounding the tragic deaths of hoops phenoms.

McKay is also is the executive producer of several HBO projects, including the series “Succession,” the documentary “Q: Into the Storm” and an upcoming limited series detailing the 1980s “Showtime” era of the Lakers.

He directed the upcoming “Don’t Look Up,” starring Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio as astronomers trying to convince the world that an asteroid is about to destroy the planet.