Michael Gross' non-fiction bestseller 740 Park has been turned into a film by Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney. The documentary, Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream, will be released in November as part of a series, Why Poverty? airing worldwide on networks like PBS and BBC.
"I always saw this book as an anthology television series," Gross, author of 740 Park: The Story of the World's Richest Apartment Building, tells The Hollywood Reporter. "Now we'll just have to wait 10 years until people forget 666 Park Avenue," he joked.
Gibney, who won an Oscar for writing and directing Taxi to the Dark Side (2007) and was nominated for Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005), was approached about producing the Why Poverty? series and was pointed specifically to Gross' book by Jane Mayer of The New Yorker.
Gibney was looking to make a film that would address poverty through wealth. "I felt [Gross' book] would be a very interesting way in," he says. "He not only deals with the history of the building but also a number of key characters who are responsible for breaking the rules of our current economic system, and they live in that building."
Gibney turned his focus to the last 75 pages of Gross' book bringing to life three residents of 740 Park: Stephen Schwarzman, David Koch and John Thain. As a whole, Gross' 740 Park takes a look at the uneven distribution of wealth in the U.S., and Gibney's film version will be among the feature-length documentaries and shorts included in the Why Poverty? series. It is a follow-up series to 2007's Why Democracy? project.
Since the book's publishing in 2005, Gross had a few phone calls with interested producers, but nothing came of them until late last year. "You just have to wait until the phone rings," Gross recalls. "And then it did. And it was an Oscar winner and somebody I have great respect for already."
Gross, whose latest book was the bestseller Unreal Estate which revealed some of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Los Angeles, served as consultant on the film version with Gibney. Why Poverty? is headed by Steps International based out of South Africa along with BBC and Danish broadcaster DRTV. Park Avenue is produced by Blair Foster, who served as co-producer on Gibney's Taxi to the Dark Side. It's edited by Chad Beck who worked on documentaries No End in Sight (2007) and Inside Job (2010).
Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream will be available on digital services like iTunes, Hulu and Netflix later this month before the television premiere next month.