Craig Brewer Rescues Gangster Princess
Directing the true crime thriller
Fans of great stranger-than-fiction true stories... should see The Imposter immediately. After that though, they may want to cross their fingers for Gangster Princess Of Beverly Hills, the mysterious tale of Lisette Lee, who claimed to be a celebrity heiress, but was jailed in 2010 for smuggling weed on an industrial scale. The bizarre narrative is about to be rendered in movie form by the just-signed director Craig Brewer. The film will be based on a lengthy article by Sabrina Rubin Erdely in Rolling Stone magazine.
Lee was a familar figure around Beverly Hills, known for prodigious shopping habits and terrorising boutique staff. She had two Bentleys, a luxury apartment, a lap dog and an entourage, and claimed to be a working model and actress. That didn't seem to be a story she could verify though, and her wealth was largely based on an allowance of $100k a month from her adoptive father. She says she is an illegitimate granddaughter of Samsung founder Byung-Chul Lee, and therefore an heiress to the Samsung fortune. Samsung say she isn't.
Lee was arrested stepping off a private jet in Ohio in 2010, trailing a dozen suitcases full of high-grade marijuana. She had been undertaking similar trips between Ohio and LA for months, allegedly moving around 7000lb of weed and raking in profits of $7m. When the cops slapped the handcuffs on her, she supposedly asked what she would wear in jail (although that sounds too perfect a story not to be apocryphal).
The plot thickens however, with Lee's legal team launching an appeal, stating that she undertook her drug flights under duress from convicted gangsta David C. Garrett, and a hit-man known only as "Marco".
"Lee participated in the charter flights out of fear that Garrett and/or 'Marco' would physically harm her, her fiancé, or members of her family," claims her defence. "As Lee is an Asian heiress, cared for and sheltered her entire life by governesses, advisors, tutors, accountants and bodyguards, she was [not] emotionally equipped to deal with the Garretts and Marcos of the world. [She] participated in the offence because she thought of it as an acting job in which she played a role of lead passenger. She also enjoyed getting away from Los Angeles."
In short, there's plenty here for Brewer to work with in his tall true tale. Is Lee guilty or innocent? Is she a patsy or a mastermind? Is she lying, or telling the truth, or delusional? Are there conspiracies afoot? We're looking forward to the film's answers, especially since this isn't Brewer's first bizarre crime story: he directed Hustle & Flow in 2005, and the bonkers Black Snake Moan in 2006.