Last month, it seemed the whole world (or, at least, a significant portion of the internet) was all agog over a Daily Beast article on how one man rigged the McDonald’s Monopoly game to win millions of dollars.
In it, journalist Jeff Maysh told the story of Jerome Jacobson, an ex-cop who managed to acquire the most valuable pieces from McDonald’s Monopoly, pass them off to other people, and share the proceeds one could net by having such pieces. It had everything one could want in a story about a masterful, though ultimately unsuccessful, scam — psychics, mobsters, strip club owners, and even a family of Mormons who had falsely claimed over $24 million in cash and prizes.
A no-holds-barred bidding war for the article’s story soon commenced, with the famous actors (or, at least, representatives on their behalf) including Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Kevin Hart, Robert Downey, Jr., and Steve Carell all vying for a shot to bring “McScam” to screen. Eventually, the article was sold to 20th Century Fox and Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s production company, Pearl Street Films, for a cool $1 million. According to Deadline, Mark Wahlberg’s production company also secured the rights to the article to create a 10-part true crime original docuseries on the scam, called McMillions.
It seemed almost too good to be true. And, depending who you ask about it, it kind of was.
According to Vulture, the bidding war for “McScam” was not so much a happenstance fluke as it was a carefully laid-out plan. Apparently, Maysh and a producer, David Klawans, had been planning the article since 2016 with the specific end goal of getting a movie deal.
Klawans had tried (and succeeded) with this formula before, coordinating articles with journalists to “plant” them in in publications that might pique Hollywood interest. This led, most notably, to the production of the Ben Affleck-directed Argo, which won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2013. Several other journalism projects that Klawans has had a hand in are now in various stages of production, such as The Atlantic’s “A Catfishing With A Happy Ending” and BBC News’ “The Uncatchable.”
Clearly, it’s a worthwhile — if unorthodox — strategy. In fact, someone might want to look into buying its film rights.