HBO Films has optioned former Newsday columnist Mark Chiusano’s book “The Fabulist: The Lying, Hustling, Grifting, Stealing, and Very American Legend of George Santos,” about the recently expelled congressman who represented parts of Nassau County and Queens.
Set to be written and co-produced by Roslyn Heights-raised screenwriter Mike Makowsky — who penned “Bad Education,” HBO’s 2019 film about the embezzlement scandal surrounding Roslyn school district Superintendent Frank Tassone — the movie will be a “darkly comic” story about Santos, who was elected last year after spinning an eventually uncovered web of lies about his background and qualifications.
On Sunday, following HBO's announcement of the film, Chiusano tweeted of Makowsky and of executive producer Frank Rich (“Veep,” “Succession”): “Could not think of a better team for this. Legends @frankrichny, who has worked on some of my favorite shows, and @mike_makowsky, whose BAD EDUCATION is a perfect Long Island movie.”
HBO describes the film as "The story of a seemingly minor local race that wound up a battle for the soul of Long Island, and unexpectedly carved the path for the world's most famous (and now disgraced) congressman. The Gatsby-esque journey of a man from nowhere who exploited the system, waged war on truth and swindled one of the wealthiest districts in the country to achieve his American Dream."
“It’s much easier to catch someone lying about one small, strange thing than it is when someone is self-fabricating everything about themselves,” Chiusano, 33, told Newsday by phone Monday, analyzing how Santos’ fabulizing went largely undetected until after the election. “I was writing about Santos since 2019, and a lot of people were looking into holes in his story,” he says of outlets including The North Shore Leader and his own op-ed pieces in the Newsday daily newsletter The Point, “but none of them connected all the dots.”
Chiusano signed his contract in February with the Simon & Schuster imprint Atria/One Signal Publishers, finishing the 320-page work in October. It was published Nov. 28. The Brooklyn native and Harvard University graduate, who is married to author and Time magazine senior correspondent Charlotte Alter, is scheduled to speak about his book at The Roosevelt School at Long Island University in Greenvale on Dec. 12, and at the Half Hollow Hills Community Library in Dix Hills on Dec. 13.
Santos has not spoken publicly about the upcoming film. Makowsky was unavailable for comment.
The House expelled Santos Friday after a tumultuous 11 months in office, following the release of an Ethics Committee report that accused him of defrauding campaign donors for personal profit. On Oct. 10, federal prosecutors with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York unsealed a 23-count indictment charging the Republican congressman with wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, money laundering, falsifying records and other alleged crimes. He has pleaded not guilty. His next status conference is scheduled for Dec. 12 and the trial is set for Sept. 9.