Twentieth Century Fox has made a deal with writer-producer Peter Mehlman for a new comedy pilot about a young couple who get a new neighbor: notorious mobster Whitey Bulger.
In an exclusive interview with TheWrap Wednesday, Mehlman shared his amazement that the 81-year-old Bulger lived the leisurely life of a fugitive in Santa Monica for 15 years.
"I can’t imagine how many times I walked past him," Mehlman said. "They had a dog and walked it in Palisades Park. I walked [my dog] Izzy there every night at sunset. I probably saw him 50 times -- and he has 19 murders under his belt, allegedly."
Also read: Peter Facinelli Making 'Whitey' Bulger Movie
In the pilot pitch, a couple, like Mehlman, remain unaware that their next-door neighbor is a murderer. (The character is based on Bulger, but is not him.) The half-hour pilot will be taped with multiple cameras in front of a live studio audience.
The real-life Bulger, who faced numerous counts of racketeering, murder, extortion and money laundering, was arrested in Santa Monica June 22 after a decades-long manhunt, during which he rose to No. 2 on the FBI's 10 most wanted fugitives list behind Osama bin Laden.
Mehlman, who worked as a senior writer on "Seinfeld" for seven years, said his dream casting for Whitey would be John Malkovich.
“I said ‘no’ to everything for six years,” said the veteran producer, whose last television project, ABC's "It's Like, You Know," had a 26-episode run before being canceled in 2000. "But these days there’s certainly a lot of options out there.” Since then Mehlman has written a novel and created a web series, "Peter Mehlman's Narrow World of Sports."
Mehlman said he and Fox will be pitching the comedy to networks in the next few weeks.
A studio spokesman had no immediate comment.
Bulger's story is also being told in film. Producers Peter Facinelli and Robert DeFranco recently closed a deal with Brookstreet Pictures for the rights to "Street Soldier: My Life as an Enforcer For Whitey Bulger and the Boston Irish Mob," the day before the fugitive mobster was captured by the FBI.
Jake Weinraub contributed to this report.