Eliot Ness is best known for sparring with Al Capone in Chicago during the Prohibition Era, taking down the mobster’s illegal breweries, distilleries and supply chains with “The Untouchables.” Though he didn’t take Capone directly, the efforts of Ness’s team and the information they dug up led to the crime boss’s eventual prosecution on charges of tax evasion.

Following his work in Chicago, Ness was promoted and moved to different assignments. One of those stops was in Cleveland, where the mayor quickly named him the city’s Safety Director, a position which put him in charge of the police and fire departments. Ness was tasked with rooting out police corruption and bringing the fire department up to modern standards.

During his tenure in Cleveland, Ness had to deal with a particularly grisly case that isn’t as well remembered as his Chicago exploits. From 1935 to 1938, a serial killer murdered seven women and five men, leaving their bodies throughout the city. Besides the killings themselves, what made the crimes more notable was that the bodies were dismembered and beheaded. With mostly torsos left behind, the killer was called the Cleveland Torso Murderer and the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run.

That story will be the subject of an upcoming film which director Paul Greengrass (Jason Bourne) just signed on to make. The movie will be titled Ness, but the story will largely be based on Torso, a 1998 comic book series by Brian Michael Bendis (who went on to write acclaimed runs on Spider-Man, the Avengers and Daredevil for Marvel Comics, and created Jessica Jones) and Marc Andreyko. The film’s screenplay was written by Brian Helgeland, who has plenty of crime movie bona fides, having written the scripts for L.A. Confidential, Payback, Blood Work, Mystic River, Man on Fire and Legend.

Torso has been in and out of development for the past 10 years, with directors David Fincher (Gone Girl) and David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon) attached at different points. Hopefully, the third time is the charm with Greengrass, because this is a story that could be turned into a fascinating movie. Matt Damon was once circling the role of Ness when Fincher was set to direct. Perhaps he could still play the part, having worked with Greengrass previously on three Jason Bourne films and the Iraq war movie, Green Zone.

Spoiler alert: Ness never caught the Torso Murderer, which is why this story doesn’t get told as much as his “Untouchables” crime-fighting in Chicago. He also went through a variety of personal problems during this time, including a divorce, public incidents of intoxication (he developed a reputation for social drinking) and a well-publicized auto accident. All of that could make for a compelling portrayal, one very different from the heroic, mythological figure we’re familiar with, previously played on screen by Robert Stack and Kevin Costner.

[The Hollywood Reporter]

About Ian Casselberry

Ian is a writer, editor, and podcaster. You can find his work at Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He's written for Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation.