News Column

Suburban native to produce new Gacy movie

August 27, 2013


They haven't yet cast actors to play serial killer John Wayne Gacy and his attorney, Sam Amirante, in the feature film being made about the two.

Names like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joe Pesci have been tossed around. But the only thing definite right now is that a script is being written for the movie, and that the film will be produced by Winnetka native Patty West.

"There are so many people who could be amazing (in those roles)," West said of the movie's leads. "It could be a 'Raging Bull' Robert De Niro part. For both roles."

The still untitled movie will be based on the 2011 book "Defending a Monster,"; written by Amirante, of Barrington, and attorney/writer Danny Broderick of Lake Zurich.

It's one of two new Gacy movies now in production. The other is a documentary -- also called "Defending a Monster,";https:// and also based on the book -- featuring interviews with people involved in the notorious mass murder case.

A handful of other people with suburban ties are also involved in making the films, including Schaumburg attorney/producer Joe Klest, who has a hand in both.

West, 31, just had a hit with her first movie, the critically acclaimed "Some Girl(s)";, starring Adam Brody, Kristen Bell, Jennifer Morrison (an Arlington Heights native) and Emily Watson.

The movie made national headlines for its unique Vimeo on Demand release; SB1000142412788732356680457855338 3509577810.html, because it was made available for viewing and purchase online only three months after it was released in theaters. Usually, that process takes at least a year.

"We turned everything on its head a bit," West said.

During a recent interview from her home in Los Angeles, West said she was immediately drawn to "Defending a Monster," a book recommended to her by her mentor, Chicago native Barry Sabath..

"I read the first chapter, and I thought, sign me up! How do I get the option on this book?" she said. "(Amirante's) character is ultimately what I loved about this story. I loved that this guy didn't give up, despite death threats, despite making no money doing it. He had a belief in the system. He was this 30-year-old with ideals."

West is too young to remember the national spotlight on the Gacy case, involving the neighborhood precinct captain and part-time clown who murdered 33 boys. He buried most of them in the crawl space of his home in unincorporated Norwood Park Township.

West says she's been amazed by how many people's lives intersected Gacy's, even indirectly. Some are still shaken by it, and some had their lives forever changed. Gacy was executed for his crimes in 1994.

"You feel this collateral damage, still, from this whole event," West said.

But it's not the sensational crime that drew her in. Rather, it was Amirante's fight to give Gacy the defense he was entitled to under the Constitution.

West reached out to Amirante and Broderick during a book signing in Los Angeles and took them out for a nice steak dinner. They immediately clicked.

Now, West, an alumna of New Trier High School in Winnetka and Northwestern University in Evanston, is working to find the best mix of writers to get the script just right. Then they'll get the cast and production plans lined up. It's possible they'll do some of the filming in the Chicago area.

West optimistically hopes the movie will be finished by the end of 2014.

"Finding the right way to do (the film) is the biggest challenge," she said. "I mean, we know (Amirante) doesn't win the case. And we know how it's going to end."

-- Jamie Sotonoff

* Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are always interested to hear about people from the suburbs who are now working in showbiz. If you know of someone who would make a good feature, email them at and

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