The Empire of Havana

  • Format TV Series
  • Status Ready For Production
  • Genre Drama | Biographical
  • Audience Adults
  • Rating M
  • Synopsis

    Empire of Havana is an hour-long serial drama that is intended as a limited run series, telling the story of a specific place in a specific period: that place is Havana, Cuba, and that time is the decade after World War II when Havana was the playground of the West, rife with booze, drugs, casinos, high society and lowlifes. In many ways, it was the last gasp of an era that has become part of our modern mythology: the 1930s, the time of gangsters, names we all recognize -- Lucky Luciano, Bugsy Siegel, and most importantly for our story, Meyer Lansky, the man dubbed “The Mob’s Financier.” That world had already been left behind in the United States, as society was being transformed by the massive social and psychological impact of the war, but like a lost world, that era held on just a little bit longer in Havana. Change was coming here, too, though they didn’t realize it, and that change, in the form of Castro’s revolution, marks the end of the Empire of Havana.

    Power – the search for it, the desperate clinging to it – is at the root of the Empire of Havana. Empires are built on statecraft, negotiation, trickery, and yes, violence, and this empire is no different. Empire of Havana explores the nature of power – who wields it, who wants it – but in doing so it explores both the “localized” power of individuals, the Mob bosses like Lansky and their ability to impose their will on people, as well as the larger and ultimately more far-reaching social power, the power of governments, and movements, of revolutions. While Meyer Lansky sought to carve out an empire for himself in Cuba, he ultimately failed to understand the larger forces at work around him; he was building a house of straw in the path of an approaching hurricane.

    At times a political drama, a character study, and a thriller full of unexpected turns, betrayals and bursts of violence, Empire of Havana is all the more compelling because it really happened. Filled with real historical figures, drawing on actual events, Empire of Havana has two secret weapons: the true life story Jaime Casielles, a street hustler who rose to become driver and confidante of the legendary Meyer Lansky, and whose autobiography forms the basis of our story and contains never before known information and insights into the workings of the Mafia during this period; and through a unique collaboration with Cuban state media, Empire of Havana will be filmed in the locations and locales that the story actually took place.

    Based on the book by Enrique Cirules “El Imperio de la Habana"

Synopsis

Havana after WWII was the playground of the West: Booze, drugs, casinos, high society and lowlifes...

Empire of Havana is an hour-long serial drama that is intended as a limited run series, telling the story of a specific place in a specific period: that place is Havana, Cuba, and that time is the decade after World War II when Havana was the playground of the West, rife with booze, drugs, casinos, high society and lowlifes. In many ways, it was the last gasp of an era that has become part of our modern mythology: the 1930s, the time of gangsters, names we all recognize -- Lucky Luciano, Bugsy Siegel, and most importantly for our story, Meyer Lansky, the man dubbed “The Mob’s Financier.” That world had already been left behind in the United States, as society was being transformed by the massive social and psychological impact of the war, but like a lost world, that era held on just a little bit longer in Havana. Change was coming here, too, though they didn’t realize it, and that change, in the form of Castro’s revolution, marks the end of the Empire of Havana.

Power – the search for it, the desperate clinging to it – is at the root of the Empire of Havana. Empires are built on statecraft, negotiation, trickery, and yes, violence, and this empire is no different. Empire of Havana explores the nature of power – who wields it, who wants it – but in doing so it explores both the “localized” power of individuals, the Mob bosses like Lansky and their ability to impose their will on people, as well as the larger and ultimately more far-reaching social power, the power of governments, and movements, of revolutions. While Meyer Lansky sought to carve out an empire for himself in Cuba, he ultimately failed to understand the larger forces at work around him; he was building a house of straw in the path of an approaching hurricane.

At times a political drama, a character study, and a thriller full of unexpected turns, betrayals and bursts of violence, Empire of Havana is all the more compelling because it really happened. Filled with real historical figures, drawing on actual events, Empire of Havana has two secret weapons: the true life story Jaime Casielles, a street hustler who rose to become driver and confidante of the legendary Meyer Lansky, and whose autobiography forms the basis of our story and contains never before known information and insights into the workings of the Mafia during this period; and through a unique collaboration with Cuban state media, Empire of Havana will be filmed in the locations and locales that the story actually took place.

Based on the book by Enrique Cirules “El Imperio de la Habana"

  • Characters Meyer Lansky

    Lansky grew up on the streets of New York City and early on decided he’d seen all the hypocrisy of society and its systems of power first hand. The disdain this knowledge instills in him leads him to a life of crime, breeding in him a yearning to bend it to his own purpose. Intelligent and discreet, cold and calculating, few can penetrate the shell around him, all qualities that allowed him to rise to control one of the largest money laundering financial systems of the 20th century.

    Jaime Casielles

    Born into poverty, Jaime yearns for a better life, a life that he can see first in the petty criminals of the street and then, writ large, in the wealth and privilege of the Mob's casinos. Plucked from his position as a dealer to be the personal driver of Meyer Lansky, Jaime sees in it the fulfillment of his desires.

    Carmen Romero

    Carmen’s burning desire for social change comes from her experience growing up on the sugar cane plantations where her father was brutally killed by plantation foremen. Smart and driven enough to make her way to University, she finds herself at a loss as to her attraction to Lansky, who she meets by chance and who would seem to embody so much that she fights against.

    Santo Trafficante Jr.

    Trafficante is second only to Lansky in the Mafia’s organization in Cuba. From his base of operations at the famous San Souci cabaret, he controls the network of casinos, prostitution, and most importantly the newly burgeoning and lucrative cocaine business. Astute, insightful, and conciliatory, Trafficante has positioned himself as a trusted mediator between the Havana/Las Vegas operations and the Five Families of New York.

    Charlie "Lucky" Luciano

    Sicilian and ‘capo di tutticappi’ for over thirty years, he is a man with a great deal of knowledge on how to run illegal activities. Luciano is also ruthless, eccentric, and very loyal to his friends, as long as they do not make any costly mistakes. Luciano can also be imprudent and he loves to party, but above all that, he rules his organization with an iron fist.

    Joe Stassi

    Lansky’s trusted associate, Joe Stassi is in charge of day to day operations of the Mafia in Havana. Slick, polished, handsome, Stassi revels in being the public face of the Mafia, spending time in the nightclubs and soaking in the limelight as Lansky remains in the shadows. Despite his past as a feared killer, Stassi is considered a neutral player, and a trusted negotiator, who nonetheless becomes a key piece in the conflict that arises between Lansky and Anastasia.

    Albert Anastasia

    Built like a bull, Anastasia is charged with enforcing the orders of the Cosa Nostra, the feared criminal organization dubbed “Murder, Inc., his physique and his boastful, threatening persona mask a man capable of genuine insight and introspection. Anastasia arrives in Havana tired of doing the dirty work and intent on claiming greater participation in the casinos of Havana, a plan that puts him in direct conflict with his former compatriot Lansky.

    Don Amleto Battisti

    Always wrapped in an imposing sobriety, Don Amleto (as he will be referred to, to avoid confusion with Fulgencio Batista) runs the casinos and other businesses on behalf of Lansky from his perch atop the elegant Hotel Sevilla Biltmore. Astute, observant and articulate, he understands Lansky’s plans without being Lansky’s man. Anastasia’s arrival gives him the opportunity to get out from under Lansky’s shadow.

    NORMAN ROTHMAN

    A close associate of Trafficante, it is Rothman who is given the delicate mission by Lansky of establishing contact with the revolutionaries to forge a path for negotiation and collaboration. His wife, Olga Chaviano, will often accompany him to these rendezvous.

    Olga Chaviano

    Norman Rothman's wife, Olga Chaviano, will often accompany Norman on the delicate mission of establishing contact for negotiation and collaboration with the revolutionaries. Flamboyant, magnetic and talented, Olga is the star of the most popular cabaret in Havana and the object of obsession for some of the richest and most powerful men on the island, but it’s Norman Rothman who wins her hand.

    Fulgencio Batista

    A classic strongman, he bullied his way to the presidency in 1938 before being forced aside in favor of the more malleable Ramón Grau. His daring opportunism gives him a second opportunity at power, but his overwhelming greed and corruption ultimately brings him into conflict with Lansky, and his naïve confidence in himself blinds him to the political conflict that is unfolding around him.

    Tommy Renzoni

    A protégé of Don Amleto, Tommy runs the dealers school at The Flamingo and takes Jaime under his wing both there and later when both men return to Cuba. Tommy’s friendship with Jaime sours both as the relationship between their bosses gets rocky and as Jaime finds himself falling in love with Tommy’s showgirl girlfriend.

    YOLANDA CASTAÑO

    Lover of Don Amleto’s protégé Tommy Renzoni, Yolanda first meets Jaime Caseilles while working at the Hotel Nacional and finds in him someone who, for the first time, seems to love her as a person and not a trophy. Though the relationship creates friction among the Mafia factions, and is yet another source of headaches for Lansky, she and Jaime find true romance and face down all who would attempt to separate them.

    ARMANDO FEO & GEORGE WHITE

    Lansky’s bodyguards and drivers (before Jaime assumes that role), Feo and White always seem to find themselves in the thick of the action and involved in all of Lansky’s plans. Just a couple of working goombahs, they are, behind Jaime, the core of Lansky’s immediate circle.

  • Director Gabriel Beristain

    Gabriel Beristain is an internationally celebrated Feature film and television Cinematographer with a vast resume of well known films and television shows. Recently he has evolved into directing and as a producer he is developing a solid slate of cross over projects mainly through his Company Vedado Films. 

  • Writer Carroll Brown

    Carroll Brown began his writing career as an entertainment journalist and short fiction author before turning his efforts toward the screen. Since then he has written and adapted works for film and television, and his scripts have won awards and honors at numerous festivals and competitions.

  • Author Enrique Cirules

    Enrique Cirules, Cuban author who wrotye the book  “El Imperio de la Habana". Sadly he passed away recently before seeing the series become reality. The Producers wish to dedicate the production to his memory.

  • Producer Gabriel Beristain

    Gabriel Beristain is an internationally celebrated Feature film and television Cinematographer with a vast resume of well known films and television shows. Recently he has evolved into directing and as a producer he is developing a solid slate of cross over projects mainly through his Company Vedado Films. 

  • Co-Producer Sacha Rodríguez

    A producer who is passionate about making films, Sacha Rodriguez joins Gabriel Beristain, and together, they lay the foundations for Vedado’s filmed entertainment division, produce a feature length documentary and the feature film "Havana Kyrie" starring Franco Nero and Ron Perlman - and embark on development of a new slate of screen titles including the upcoming feature film "The House of Abraham Phillips", in collaboration with The Lan Film Company in Wales.

  • Executive Producer Frank Ariza

    Frank Ariza, born in Barbate is a writer, producer and director of various Spanish productions. He has a great professional career of highly successful series. Director of Gossip Events Productions assures that he bases his success on the actors, in whom he places his full confidence. At present he is in several and very exciting projects. They range from comedy, to thriller to a great drama at several countries. He's very excited and happy with this new stage that is full of emotions and adventures.

  • Created By Gabriel Beristain

    Gabriel Beristain is an internationally celebrated Feature film and television Cinematographer with a vast resume of well known films and television shows. Recently he has evolved into directing and as a producer he is developing a solid slate of cross over projects mainly through his Company Vedado Films. 

  • Documents
    The Empire of Havana - Series Bible
    06/07/2020
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