Radar Pictures Secures Rights for Brunson Biopic
It’s finally happening. Most people in poker know that Doyle Brunson’s life story would make an interesting movie, but someone is finally going to make one. Radar Pictures bought the rights to Brunson’s life story. Even better, the person in charge of adapting the script is Justin Smith, a former poker pro and now producer and partner at Radar.
Deadline and other Hollywood news outlets reported this week that Radar Pictures secured the “life rights” to Doyle Brunson, “with plans to develop a biopic on the legendary player.”
Justin Smith will adapt the script and produce the film. He commented, “There have been many gambling and poker scripts sent to me. None of them has intrigued me as much as Doyle’s story. There’s no better life story than Doyle’s that I know of. Having played the biggest poker games with Doyle myself, I’m extremely honored to be in a unique position to be able to help tell his story and capture the environment accurately from an insider perspective.”
Ted Field, founder of Radar Pictures, will produce the film alongside Smith. He met Brunson when the latter was 88. “His improbable life story needs to be told with all its rollercoaster ups and downs,” Field said, “and we at Radar feel privileged to have the chance to do it justice.”
Brunson’s agent, Brian Balsbaugh of Poker Royalty, will be one of the executive producers. Others will include Brunson himself, Daniel “Jungleman” Cates, David Oppenheim, Illya Trincher, Mike McGuiness, and Mike Svobodny. All are either poker pros or have intimate connections to the poker world.
Back in the day, Justin “Boosted J” Smith was a well-known poker pro. In the world of online poker, he played as Boosted J and won millions of dollars during the poker boom years. He played quite a bit at the Full Tilt Poker online tables, even for a time as a sponsored pro. He took some of that wealth to the live tournament tables but really enjoyed high-stakes cash games in Las Vegas.
Live tournaments weren’t Smith’s forte, but it was the easiest of his poker avenues to track. His first televised final table appearance happened at the World Poker Tour Main Event at the 2009 Bellagio Cup, where he finished third for nearly $465K. The very next year, he made the same final table at the WPT Bellagio Cup and finished second for more than $594K. He won a 2010 WPT London High Roller for £141K.
Smith still plays live poker tournaments periodically.
Mr. Smith Goes to Hollywood
For the most part, though, Smith spends most of his time in the Hollywood scene. In fact, he started his first production company – Boosted Productions – in 2010. During the eight years that he operated that company, he produced numerous films. The first was Detention, a horror film in which Smith played a small role, as did poker pro Daniel Negreanu and his now-wife Amanda Leatherman.
Smith operated another company called So Stupid Productions, which developed film projects and digital content for Any Milonakis.
Most recently, though, Smith became a partner and producer at Radar Pictures. The most recent project there found Smith as the co-producer for a partially-animated television series – a Netflix Original – called The Guardians of Justice (Will Save You!). The series stars Dallas Page, Sharni Vinson, Denise Richards, and Jane Seymour.
From Superheroes to Super System
Justin Smith clearly has a wide-ranging film repertoire under his belt, but his participation in the Doyle Brunson biopic is made to order. Not only has Smith played poker with Brunson, he was a part of the larger poker world for many years.
If anyone is a legend in poker, it is Brunson. There is a reason he is referred to as the “godfather” of poker. In fact, that was the name of his 2009 biography. And Super System was the name of one of the first poker books, as well as a second iteration of it released in 2005. Doyle Brunson’s Super System: A Course in Power Poker was first published in 1979 and is one of the most important books for any poker player learning the game.
Brunson’s life is filled with poker, obviously. From the days of playing poker in mostly-illegal games in Texas to being a regular player in high-stakes cash games in “Bobby’s Room” at the Bellagio, Brunson has been a part of every generation of modern poker. He owned an online poker site called “Doyle’s Room” at one point. He has played online and live, on televised games and around the world.
The film will likely cover it all – his early dreams of becoming a basketball star, his nearly-sixty-year marriage to Louise, his battles with cancer, his religious ties and family losses, and his tremendous poker swings.
Brunson likely approves of Smith telling his story; he wouldn’t have sold the rights otherwise.
With those rights having been recently secured, there is no timeline yet for filming.