A book about the improbable rise and rapid fall of former congressman George Santos has been optioned by HBO Films, it was reported Saturday, and will be produced under the guidance of Frank Rich, a former New York Times columnist known for executive production credits on Emmy awards-winning Succession and Veep.
HBO reportedly optioned the rights to Mark Chiusano’s The Fabulist: The Lying, Hustling, Grifting, Stealing, and Very American Legend of George Santos, published last week.
Chiusano, a former Newsday reporter, told the Guardian last week that the story of Santos, who was expelled from Congress last week after a damning ethics report that focused on his use of campaign funds and also faces criminal charges, was at its heart “a tragedy”.
“He is someone who is clearly very ambitious and wants to live a kind of wealthy life, a life of fame and notoriety, and he is trying to attain essentially a version of the American dream, which so many people have sought over the years,” Chiusano said.
A movie interpretation of Santos’s political career may have literary precedents to follow. Part of the New York district three that Santos served includes Great Neck, transposed as Little Egg in the story of Jay Gatsby, the (fictional) character who created his own fictional life in F Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby.
According to Deadline, the adaptation of The Fabulist will be written by Mike Makowsky, who wrote the screenplay of HBO’s crime drama Bad Education, and will tell the “Gatsby-esque journey of a man from nowhere who exploited the system, waged war on truth and swindled one of the wealthiest districts in the country to achieve his American Dream”.
The disgraced ex-congressman fired off a series of tweets late Friday night announcing he would file complaints about misdeeds involving former colleagues Nicole Malliotakis, Mike Lawler, Nick LaLota and Bob Menendez.
By Sunday, Santos’s controversial expulsion ahead of a criminal trial continued to attract political comment. Former Trump White House chief of staff and ABC political analyst Reince Priebus acknowledged splits within the Republican party on the vote to expel and the issue of the legislative body acting independently of voters in Santos’s district.
“True, he lied. He has a big mouth, all of these things. You know, I do think there is a concern with taking that power away from the people in the district,” Priebus said.
Santos, he added, was “a victim of himself. But he is also paying the price for having a big mouth, for being almost a comedian in front of his colleagues, who are now his judges. And he paid the price. And that’s a good lesson about, when you get in trouble, you keep your head down; you keep your mouth shut.”
But the immediate aftermath of a year of Santos headlines has left an emotional vacuum – and the prospect of a hotly contested election in the New Year in which Democrats will hope to recover a seat they lost in 2022. New York Magazine, which exhaustively chronicled the Santos’s political epic, echoed the line from Dr Seuss: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”