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For more than 30 years, John Kiesewetter has been the source for information about all things in local media – comings and goings, local people appearing on the big or small screen, special programs, and much more. Local media is still his beat and he’s bringing his interest, curiosity, contacts and unique style to Cincinnati Public Radio and 91.7 WVXU. Contact John at johnkiese@yahoo.com.

Barry Levinson returns to Cincinnati to direct Robert De Niro in 'Wise Guys'

robert de niro
Evan Agostini
Robert De Niro attends the world premiere of "Amsterdam" at Alice Tully Hall on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, in New York.

Extras are needed for the 1950s crime drama being shot by Levinson, director of the Oscar-winning 'Rain Man' shot here in 1988.

More than three decades after filming Rain Man in Greater Cincinnati, and making the city a destination for Hollywood studios, director Barry Levinson will shoot a 1950s gangster movie called Wise Guys here starring Oscar-winner Robert De Niro.

Local casting director D. Lynn Meyers broke the news Friday when she announced on Facebook she was "looking for lots of different extras" for Wise Guys.

Hollywood entertainment websites — which have been writing about the De Niro-Levinson Wise Guys film since August — say that De Niro will likely play dual roles in the 1950s mob drama.

The plot follows Italian American crime bosses Vito Genovese and Frank Costello, who each ran their respective families in the 20th century. In 1957, Genovese tried (and failed) to assassinate Costello, who was ultimately injured and attempted to retire from the mafia, according to Variety.

"We're excited to start casting on our next Cincinnati, OH feature movie, THE WISE GUYS!" Meyer wrote. "Looking for lots of different extras, but especially anybody who is of Italian descent or who looks like they could be a NY mobster in the 1950s. All paid. Please send photo, contact, and sizes to wiseguysextras@gmail.com."

Wise Guys will be the fifth feature film shot this year in Cincinnati, and the third currently in production or pre-production. Film Cincinnati announced Friday that Cincinnati native KiKi Layne would soon shoot Dandelion here, while The Bikeriders continues to film in the area.

Rain Man, starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, won four Academy Awards in 1989 for best picture, actor (Hoffman), director (Levinson) and writing for a screenplay written directly for the screen.

rain man oscars
The principals of 1989's best film, from left, Mark Johnson, Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise and Barry Levinson are all smiles as they display their Oscars at the 61st Annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles, March 29, 1989 after 'Rain Man' was named best film.

Although Eight Men Out, Molly Ringwald's Fresh Horses and a few other films were shot here in the mid-1980s, Rain Man put Cincinnati on Hollywood's radar and led to the creation of the Cincinnati Film Commission, now called Film Cincinnati.

Lost In Yonkers, Tango & Cash, Little Man Tate, A Range in Harlem, Milk Money, In Too Deep and Traffic soon followed.

Rain Man earned Levinson his only Oscar in five nominations. On the other hand, De Niro has two Oscars: for The Godfather Part II (1975) and Raging Bull (1981).

De Niro and Levinson are old friends. They've worked together on Wag the Dog, Sleeper, the HBO series The Wizard of Lies and What Just Happened. Levinson also is known for Good Morning Vietnam, Diner, Toys, Bugsy, Tin Men, and HBO's The Survivor. He also directed two episodes of Hulu’s Dopesick.

Actress Katherine Narducci, who appeared in The Irishman with De Niro, will play Anna Genovese in the film. The Internet Movie Database also says that Will & Grace star Debra Messing is "rumored" to be in the film.

Nicholas Pileggi, the co-writer of Martin Scorsese’s crime epic Goodfellas, which starred De Niro, wrote Wise Guys. Variety notes that Goodfellas was based on Pileggi’s 1985 book “Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family, but it's unrelated to Levinson’s new movie.

Irwin Winkler, a producer on the Rocky franchise and Goodfellas, will be a producer on Wise Guys, Deadline reported in August.

Hollywood producers are attracted here by the like Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit, which provides a refundable tax credit of 30% on production cast and crew wages plus other eligible in-state spending.

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.