From Inside Jersey
Corrupt Jersey boss inspires HBO's 'Boardwalk Empire'
By BOB CONSIDINE
Later this year, television viewers will find themselves wrapped up in another quintessential New Jersey drama on HBO involving organized crime, corruption, violence and bossism.
Only this time, the story won’t revolve around a fictional tormented mobster born under a bad sign.
The highly anticipated series “Boardwalk Empire” is inspired, instead, by the real-life reign of the flamboyant and fabulously corrupt political boss Enoch “Nucky” Johnson. Where the contemporary Tony Soprano operated in a clandestine underworld, this ’20s-era Atlantic City political boss brashly and shrewdly used his influence to run a government that worked openly to line his pockets and steamroll those who didn’t fall in line.
The idea for the new show comes from an unlikely source: a book written by a New Jersey judge and historian.
Superior Court Judge Nelson Johnson’s “Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City” hit bookshelves in September 2002, after nearly 20 years of research and writing, and ended its long journey to the small screen at the production offices of HBO.
The nearly 300-page sweeping history of people doing bad things by the ocean starts in the mid-19th century and ends with legalized gaming coming to Atlantic City in the 1970s and early ’80s. But it was chapters five and six that interested the folks at HBO the most — chapters devoted to the colorful rise and fall of Nucky Johnson.
“My publisher and I keep saying this book’s got legs,” says the judge. “And we’re thrilled that it does.” Nelson Johnson’s book has served as a jumping-off point for some serious Hollywood heavyweights.
Martin Scorsese, who is producing the series, directed the pilot episode, his first major foray into television drama. And Terence Winter, producer and writer eccellente from “The Sopranos,” which ran for six seasons and scored 21 Emmys, is the writer.
HBO has committed to 12 episodes.