In 2007, when NBA referee Tim Donaghy got caught betting on games he worked, he said two men associated with the Gambino crime family—a bookie named Baba Battista and a drug dealer named Tommy Martino—threatened to kill his family if he didn’t give them gambling picks. That’s what Donaghy told the FBI, that’s what he told 60 Minutes, and that’s what he testified in court. But that’s not what really happened. That’s not even close.
Opening this Friday, November 1st, INSIDE GAME is the untold true story of one of the biggest scandals in sports history. Shot on location in Hoboken, Rutherford, Fairlawn and Atlantic City, the movie was directed by Randall Batinkoff, written by Andy Callahan, and stars Scott Wolf (Party of Five), Will Sasso (The Three Stooges), Eric Mabius (Resident Evil), Lindsey Morgan (The 100), Michael O’Keefe (Caddyshack) and Arthur Nascarella (The Sopranos).
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To help tell this story the producers, Paul Martino and Michael Pierce, forged a relationship with long time New Jersey producer Robert Capelli who has been devoted to bringing film production to Garden State for over 20 years.
hMAG spoke with Capelli about his connections to New Jersey, and how they shaped his approach to Inside Game.
hMAG: Can you tell our readers about your connections to Hoboken?
Robert Capelli: I was born and raised in Hoboken—4th generation. My roots are deep in the town; I witnessed the evolution of the town from a blue collar industrial town to what we have today. Every phase of the transformation was as equally special. I always treasured the community aspect of the town.
h: Why it was important for you to film here?
RC: I am very proud of Hoboken and I am honored that I’m able to bring movie productions here. The city has so much to offer through talent and locations, that it inspires people to shoot here.
Every chance I get, I try to include Hoboken in parts of the film. From my films Waltzing Anna to my latest film, Inside Game, it’s always an honor to showcase the city’s diverse landscape, and for the world to see Hoboken in my films is extremely pleasing to me. I feel like she is a character in the film. And as always, my family and friends from Hoboken are always supportive and I wouldn’t know what to do without them. I feel blessed and humbled to have such beautiful people in my life.
Plus when I shoot here, I’m able to eat in town. On Inside Game, the director was from LA and he never had a Roast beef, mozzarella and gravy from Fiores on Adams street. He loved it. I brought the crew to Biggies (RIP), and some other places.
I named my production company Baxter Films after my grandfather, who was a longshoreman on Pier C.
Also, for Inside Game, the actor who played Tim Donaghy didn’t know the technical attributes associated with being a referee. So I enlisted my friend John “Diddle” McDonald from Hoboken, who was a great ball player and referee, as the technical consultant.
h: After working on this project, what’s your take on the integrity of professional sports?
RC: The same as before. Like everything in life you have the good and the bad. Some people have integrity and some don’t. Gambling has been a sidebar of sports forever And now with sports books being so prominent, the temptation for corruption is more profound than ever.
I just view sports as a pastime and entertainment.
h: What’s next for you?
RC: We have a couple of projects in development but really want to do a series on Hoboken from the late 1960’s to the mid 1980’s. I feel this time period was epic for this town. The evolution was extraordinary.
INSIDE GAME will be sending shock waves throughout the sports world particularly the NBA and its fans. The film depicts the true story of what really happened in the biggest sports scandal since the notorious Black Sox game fixing during the 1919 World Series.
Tim Donaghy, the subject of the film, has recently made a few statements about his NBA officials “I believe that they’re manipulated by the league for certain reasons,” he said. “They sit there and program and train the referees before the games to concentrate on certain things, and it always goes in the favor of those teams that are down in the series to advance it to a five, six or even a seventh game. I think that they probably do that in the NFL, too, with telling the referees what to concentrate on on plays that were missed in other games for teams in the NFL. I think it’s definitely manipulated for the monopoly of the leagues and the bigger markets to make sure that there’s more money put in the pockets of the NFL or NBA.”
Donaghy initially wasn’t on board with Inside Game, but he’s happy the film was made.
“I think there’s a great message in the movie about choices and how those choices not only affect ourselves, but affect the people that we love the most – and that’s our family,” he said. “I think they do an absolute great job in portraying that. . . . It’s tough for me to sit through because it’s about me. But when people continue to come up to you and tell you that there’s a great message in the movie, I’m glad I’m involved in it.”
INSIDE GAME is being distributed by iDreamMachine and was produced by Raw Milk, 818 Productions, Baxter Films and Michael Pierce Studios.