By Seth Daniel
Were Charlestown folks able to get the ear of hometown Hollywood stars Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, they might suggest the two locals find some new material after hearing of their latest show that will once again feature Charlestown’s past as a criminal hotbed.
Showtime Network announced in late July that they plan to feature a new one-hour pilot from Ben Affleck and Matt Damon that would tell the story about the ‘Boston Miracle’ crime turnaround – but a fictitious story that essentially points the finger at a Charlestown bank robbing crime family for the spate of violence that rocked the city in the 1990s.
Locally, in Charlestown, where the bank robbing past has seemingly never grown tired in Hollywood and amongst Affleck and Damon, the idea hasn’t exactly brought out cheers and banners.
Around the coffee klatches and taverns in the Town, the consensus is that many would hope the two producers could find other, more positive, stories to tell about Charlestown – as opposed to the same kind of bank robber story that was detailed in all its glory in the movie ‘The Town’ – also by Affleck and Damon.
“In all seriousness, it’s Hollywood so you have to take it with a grain of salt,” said State Rep. Dan Ryan. “Charlestown does have a gritty story to tell. I don’t look at some of our past history as a total negative. Nor, should it paint the entire neighborhood with the same brush. In my opinion, our recent history adds more credence to our success stories. The Charlestown of today has overcome long odds and seemingly insurmountable obstacles, both as a community and for many individuals. I’ve always thought that because of our small size, isolation and reputation, Charlestown folks have had to work a little harder to compete. There aren’t too many places that take a derogatory term such as ‘Townie’, capitalize it and wear it on sweatshirts as a badge of honor. There is something to be said for that sort of resilience…My hope is that the filmmakers catch this part of the story.”
Showtime didn’t return e-mails requesting comment on why they chose to vilify Charlestown once again in their upcoming series. However, they did forward a press release stating that the show is a one-hour pilot named ‘City on a Hill.’
Executive producers will be Affleck and Damon, and the story is based on an original script idea by Affleck and Chuck MacLean, who also wrote ‘Boston Strangler.’
The story is based in the early 1990s when Boston was rife with violent criminals emboldened by local law enforcement agencies where corruption and racism was the norm. The story focuses on the dramatic change in that trend, known as the ‘Boston Miracle.’
However, the story is a fictitious account of that Miracle, and details a black district-attorney from Brooklyn, who teams up with a corrupt FBI veteran agent in Boston, to take on a family of armored car robbers from Charlestown. The case of the Charlestown robbers in the show “grows to encompass and eventually upend Boston’s citywide criminal justice system.”
Kim Mahoney of the Charlestown Chamber said she grew to like Affleck when he was in Charlestown to film ‘The Town’ some years ago, and often stopped in to patronize the Warren Tavern.
She said she hopes, based on getting to know Affleck previously, that he shows a positive side of Charlestown as well.
“I know there’s a story there and in the neighborhood some of those things are true, but the way they tell it doesn’t make the community look that great,” she said. “The reality is there were bank robbers in Charlestown, but they wouldn’t have hurt anyone. They actually came from good families with parents who worked hard, and they did it more for the thrill. Do I wish he wouldn’t do it? Yes I do. It just paints the image of the Town in a way that’s not that great…Charlestown has so many better stories that those of crime. We have guys who were top fighter-pilots in the military and pro hockey players. We had a guy who played on the Miracle on Ice team…I get it. The crime is sexy, but it’s gone. Just like Old Sully’s, boarded up and gone.”
Diane Valle of the Friends of the Training Field said she wasn’t encouraged when she heard that the latest reference to Charlestown in Hollywood would once again be about criminal bank robbers.
“These two hometown stars could tell stories of hope, courage, and heroism that define Boston in City Hall, neighborhoods, hospitals, schools, and businesses,” she said. “They can find stories that are far more interesting and valuable than another contrived bank robber/bad guy story with a not-so-subtle message of racism. Boston and Charlestown deserve better. We need a public-relations campaign of true stories based on today. In this day and age of Trump-ism and discrediting others, we need and deserve the stories of real people today in Charlestown to be told.”