Kurt Sutter announced he is developing a television show about the fictional Mayans Motorcycle Club yesterday in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. Sutter said the show is “still early in the development process.”
In Sons of Anarchy, the Mayans were understood to be analogues for the Mongols Motorcycle Club. The Mayans were largely Xicano and were frequently at odds with the Sons who were understood by viewers to be analogues for the Hells Angels.
The show business newspaper reported that Sutter “is keeping mum on details, so questions remain about the time period and the potential for Sons’ stars to return.” In the past Sutter has expressed interest in producing a Sons of Anarchy prequel set during the late Vietnam War.
Given Sutter’s talents and personal history, the back story on the new show may turn out to be more interesting than the series will be.
Sutter became a household name after he became the “showrunner,” or most hands-on executive producer, of Sons of Anarchy. The gangster melodrama relentlessly compared itself to Hamlet and bragged about its “authenticity.” It offered virtually no insight into the motorcycle club world but it did teach a legion of “aspirational outlaws” how to strut, pose and troll. The general public loved the show.
But, there was always some question about how Sons of Anarchy came to be.
One version says the show was inspired by the experiences of a John Linson. Linson is the son of the very important producer Art Linson and he encouraged the idea that he was rougher than most sons of Hollywood. The series, viewers were encouraged to believe, was inspired by his experiences with the Oakland charter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. As the show was about to debut in 2008, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, “With John Linson’s love of motorcycle culture and his access to an Oakland outlaw club (which he doesn’t name), Sutter was able to immerse himself in the workings of the organization and come out with something authentic.”
During the pre-debut media blitz, Sutter told a Television Critics Association audience, “I had lunch with John Linson and Art Linson two years ago and John had this notion about doing a family drama set in the world of outlaw motorcycle clubs. John was completely immersed in the culture, well-versed in the area,” Sutter explained. “He had friends and associates who were living the life, and what he offered me was a front-row seat. I didn’t want to get involved with anything that I felt I could not do authentically and, you know, I can’t mention any organizations, but one of these organizations sort of opened their doors to me, and I got to see it firsthand.”
An alternate version of the show’s origin is that it was Chuck Zito’s idea for a show and Sutter stole it. Zito is an actor and author who may still be best known as a former president of the Angels New York City charter and as a tough guy bodyguard. In a 2011 lawsuit against FX Networks LLC Zito claimed he “conceived, developed and wrote a treatment containing his creative ideas for a television series entitled Nomads which was later tweaked and renamed The Wild Angels…about an outlaw motorcycle club. The protagonists were the leader of the club, his family members, rivals and associates within the club who support or undermine the club, law enforcement and government officials and rival gangs.”
Zito recalls that he had meetings in 2003 and 2004 with FX executives and that all the parties shook hands on a deal to produce Zito’s biker show for the cable network. Later in 2004, according to Zito, network president John Landgraf decided to pass on Zito’s series because FX was “not interested in a biker show.” Two years after that, Zito learned that his former agent, a man named Ted Chervin, had just packaged and sold a biker series named Sons of Anarchy to Landgraf and FX. Landgraf and Sutter had been business associates for years and it was to be Sutter’s show.
Zito lost his lawsuit when a judge named Steven J. Kleifield granted a summary judgment against him on December 15, 2011. The judge based his decision, in part, on a sealed declaration by Sutter that “illustrated his development process.” Sutter claimed to have offered Sons of Anarchy to HBO and AMC before FX won the rights in a “bidding war.”
Sutter The Troll
Sutter subsequently belittled Zito on social media. He called Zito a “half-talent” and called the lawsuit “bogus.”
“Here’s the problem with his (Zito’s) plan,” Sutter wrote. “When it comes to parting with cash, there’s one badass outlaw that makes Zito look like a pussy – his name is Rupert, and Rupe don’t sway. Trust me, Chucky could firebomb our lot and Fox wouldn’t fork over a fucking dime to this guy. That’s why I love them… my parent company is as stubborn and aggressive as I am.”
“So here’s my bi-monthly reminder to every delusional bitch who thinks that they’ve come up with the idea for SOA – Having the fucking idea is not the show. There have been dozens of outlaw motorcycle TV dramas pitched in the last ten years. None of them has made it to series except SOA because they sucked. The same way there were dozens of mob family pitches before the Sopranos and crime scene pitches before CSI.”
“I guarantee you, the only similarity between Zito’s pitch and SOA is that they wear cuts, do illegal things and ride Harleys.”
One person who was distressed this morning to learn of Sutter’s new show in development is a Hollywood stylist and budding producer named Annie Psaltiras. Psaltiras grew up in East Los Angeles, has a fascination with and genuine insight into the early days of the Mongols and has interviewed and bought the rights to the life stories of some original Mongols. She is not affiliated with the club and has never secured the rights to use the Mongols name or logo but she has been actively trying to produce a fictionalized television series about the founders of the club for years. It is a passion project for her. She thinks she has an idea for a story that should be told.
In a show pitch that has been circulating for two years, Psaltiras describes her characters as “young, Latino-American soldiers who served in the Vietnam War. They went to Vietnam as naïve kids and returned home as broken men, without purpose. The club gave them a purpose.”
“These restless outsiders were deeply suffering from “wounds you couldn’t see.” PTSD was unheard of at the time. Betrayed and disenfranchised by the country they dutifully served, they were in desperate need of camaraderie and understanding.
Shunned by the hippy culture as ‘baby killers,’ and unable to relate to friends and family, they found order in the chaos by sticking together.”
Psaltiras has made slow progress with the project because she is, to a large extent, a Hollywood unknown. This year she attached the actress Natasha Lyonne as a producer for her proposed series. Last May, Lyonne arranged a meeting for Psaltiras with an agent at William Morris Endeavor Entertainment who liked the idea and suggested writers that might be attached to the project.
William Morris Endeavor Entertainment is probably the premier agency in Los Angeles.
Kurt Sutter, by the way, is represented by William Morris Endeavor Entertainment.
It would be reasonable to conclude that there is absolutely no connection between Sutter’s new project and Psaltiras long held dream. It is also not exactly unreasonable to imagine that there is a connection. And if there is, and Psaltiras mentions it out loud, it will be interesting to see how long it takes Sutter to climb up on his bully pulpit and call her a “delusional bitch.”