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'Minkow' movie may need a new ending, as subject could be headed to prison again

March 18, 2011 |  4:10 pm

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Barry Minkow’s life story makes for a classic Hollywood movie: teen becomes tycoon, goes to prison for $100-million Ponzi scheme, turns his life around while locked up, becomes a minister and fraud investigator.

But a recently completed inspirational drama about the ZZZZ Best carpet cleaning swindler now needs a new ending, as the purportedly reformed Minkow could be headed back to prison for as much as five years after agreeing to plead guilty in an insider-trading case, his attorney said earlier this week.
Minkow not only invested in the $4-million production, but also plays himself in the independently financed movie.

"Minkow" was shown this month at the Berlin International Film Festival and was set to be offered to potential distributors at the film market in May at the Cannes Film Festival. Although the film could still make it to the famous French fest, it will  probably need to be revised and lose its fairy-tale ending, the movie’s director, Bruce Caulk, said Friday.

"Obviously, there's been a turn of events," the director said. "The movie did just get a lot more interesting."

On Wednesday, Minkow's attorney said his client would plead guilty to a count of trading on nonpublic information as part of a federal probe in Miami. Details of the case have not been disclosed. San Diego's Community Bible Church, where Minkow had been a minister, announced that he had resigned earlier this week.

Caulk said he had worked closely with Minkow in making the film, which stars James Caan and Ving Rhames, but he may no longer have access to Minkow’s acting services as he considers several options on how to modify the picture. The director said he may use a television news anchor who is already in the movie to update Minkow's status.

Producer Bret Saxon said he needed to speak with Minkow over the weekend before deciding what to do next. "We need to see how it plays out," Saxon said. "We're right in the middle of the storm right now."

Caulk, who hasn’t spoken with his subject since the news broke, said "I feel badly for Barry. I've seen him do some really good things." The director suggested there may be darker forces at work. "When you’re uncovering Ponzi schemes," he said, "you’re going to make some enemies."

-- John Horn

Photo: Ving Rhames, left, director Bruce Caulk, and Barry Minkow on the set of "Minkow." Credit: Insomnia Pictures

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