Who needs Wes Hayden when you have Frank Sinatra? Model and Bachelor/Bachelor Pad star Gia Allemand is set to play the supporting role of legendary actress Ava Gardner in an upcoming film on the life of actor Gianni Russo. According to a press release from Gia's publicist, the film will be produced by Brett Ratner (the Rush Hour Series, X-Men: The Last Stand) and directed by George Gallo Jr. (Midnight Run, Bad Boys) and cameras start taping on January 2.
Gianni Russo, 66, first made his name while playing Carlo Rizzi in the classic film The Godfather, directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Russo's career has spanned over 40 additional films including The Freshman, Any Given Sunday, and Sea Biscuit. Also an accomplished singer, he released a CD in 2004 called Reflections, paying tribute to friends Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.
The film will span several decades, with a focus on the 1950s-1970s. Among Russo's pals were Frank Sinatra, Frank Costello and Carlos Marcello. Gianni Russo's wish list for actors includes James Franco as Russo, Benicio Del Toro as Pablo Escobar, Scarlett Johansson as Nurse Delores, Robert Downey Jr. as Sinatra, Matt Damon as JFK, Claire Danes as Grace Kelly, and Elizabeth Banks as Marilyn Monroe.
Gianni Russo personally cast Gia Allemand for the film as Ava Gardner, considered one of the most beautiful women of her day, Gardner was known for her high profile marriage to Frank Sinatra. "It's a small role. Gia looks a lot like Ava, but it's really the passion that she had that convinced me to cast her," says Russo, "Forty years ago someone did this for me. They stuck their neck out."
After learning of Russo's feature film project, Gia knew that she was destined to play Ava Gardner. Previously, Gia had twice read Gardner's biography, finding a deep kinship with her. Gia would tell friends, "Ava Gardner is my person." Eighteen months after Russo and Gia first met, the deal was made at Jean-Georges restaurant in Manhattan. Gia says, "I was pursuing him to cast me as Ava. After I heard about Mr. Russo signing on a napkin for The Godfather (at The Palm in Manhattan in 1969), I recited Ava's whole life to him until he agreed to cast me and then I immediately asked him to write our agreement on a napkin!"
"It's a Cinderella story, and to help a person like Gia makes me happy because that was me forty years ago," says Russo.