Mitch Glazer Talks Magic City, Mickey Rourke, and Why It's Great to Live in Miami

Next time you drive past Miami International Airport, know that there is much more going on over there than arrivals and departures. Just blocks from MIA, there is magic being made. We are talking about the set of Starz's soon-to-be hit show, Magic City, written, created, and directed by Miami native Mitch Glazer.

You're probably not familiar with Glazer, but Hollywood sure is. Magic City star Jeffrey Dean Morgan (who plays Ike Morgan) told us he loves the man, admitting, "I would die for Mitch." He's not kidding, and we can totally see why. He is easily one the nicest and most intelligent men we have ever come across.

We recently sat down with Glazer on the Magic City set and talked about everything from the show, to his wild days with BFF and fellow 305-er, Mickey Rourke.

New Times: You are a Miami boy through and through, right?
Mitch Glazer: Yep, born and raised. I actually left right after high school in 1970, and my dad still lives in Coconut Grove. Even all the years I was gone, I came back four to five times a year. Anytime I had the opportunity to come back, I did. I love it here.

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So, you are a resident for the first time since high school graduation?
Yeah, I am glad to be back on the beach. I am on the end of West Avenue. Weirdly, I can see where I grew up from my balcony. I keep telling my wife, 'it's so heavy. It feels like a dream to be back here.' My wife is paddle boarding as we speak, so she now loves it too. When we have the moments where we can sit by the bay and explore the new parts of Miami, we are just in heaven. This is the best version of Miami that I have seen since '59. The restaurants, hotels and everything, it just feels very cool and livable.

True or false: You went to high school with Mickey Rourke?
Yeah, I have known Mickey since we were 15. I am a year older than he is. My mom was both of our English teacher at Miami Beach High. Mickey loved her. She died in a car accident on Dixie Highway, and I had spoken to him earlier that day and told him I was in Miami because my mother had passed. It was just me, my sister and my wife in the funeral home and all of sudden there was a knock at the back door and there was Mickey. He had had flown down from New York just to pay his respects.

There was a decade when he was completely insane and we didn't speak, but we're back and actually, I just directed him last year. But I am actually mad at him--I just found out he dated my sister like 40 years ago. I am kind of furious about it, but he is a good friend.

What made you want to bring the show Magic City to the actual Magic City and not some soundstage in Los Angeles?
They looked at L.A., North Carolina, and a few other places just to budget things out. In my heart, it was never going to be anywhere else. The Sopranos were shot in Jersey and this show is Magic City about Miami Beach in 1958.

For me, the city is a character in the show. It had to be here. And actually, a lot of the actors had never been here. They came in late June before we started filming to live here and dive into the city. I wanted them to love it like I do. And they do.

What made you want to create this show in the first place?
I grew up in the lobbies of these hotels. My dad was a lighting designer and did all the design in places like the Fontainebleau and Eden Roc in the '50s. As a little kid, I remember thinking those places were the coolest and most glamorous places in existence. The whole Sinatra, Rat Pack era of this town in my eyes, was like nothing else.

Years later, I was the worst cabana boy ever at the Deauville Hotel. I knew these hotels really well. And they say to write what you know and these stories I knew and held on to. A lot of characters in this show actually existed. Sometimes I walk onto set, and it's too real. I want this show to be a celebration of the city.  

Is this era where the term "Magic City" came from?
It was a wild time. I grew up knowing Miami as the Magic City. For me, it was '50s and '60s Miami Beach. It's the perfect, ironic, and very accurate name for the show. I just loved the architecture, cars, and the Rat Pack sensibility. The more research I did, I found out more important things that happened during that time.

By 1961, Miami was the second largest CIA base in the world because they all came down here to fight Castro. I had read transcripts of the CIA and the mafia sitting down at the Fontainebleau exchanging money and talking about how to kill Castro. There is a great Civil rights story to be told of 1959 with Miami being the site of some of the first marches ever. 

Nat King Cole and Sammy Davis performed at the Fontainebleau but couldn't sleep there. In 1959, there were 30,000 Cubans and two years later there are 250,000. Castro threw the mafia out of Cuba and they resurfaced in Miami. There are stories that should and needed to be told.

What was Miami like in 1958?
It was the home of some of the greatest mid-century architecture ever built.  In my mind, it was a glamorous, important, sexy and dangerous place to be. And it was kind of wild. Still is.

Why do you think people are going to watch this show?
I'm hoping the story of this family and the main character, Ike Evans, trying to hold onto his dream will be compelling and addictive. All of them are in such jeopardy and moving through this dangerous world. At the heart of it, there is a great family unit in the '50s. The stories are loving, twisted, dangerous and glamorous, and it's something I want to watch.  I have been around movies my whole live and this cast and production is just dazzling. It's a world people are going to want to live in.

We have Miami in the '80s with Miami Vice and Scarface, and in modern day with Dexter and Burn Notice. Has this era in Miami ever been seen or told?
No, and I hope people are into it. The cast is astounding. All of the actors were my first choice for the role, which never happens. You have these talented people working through this glamorous world, but at the same time, important things are happening. I hope these things are compelling and exciting. It's a wildly sexy show, too. But it's also a little dark. I can't wait for it to be out.

This show makes me excited to live in Miami.
I told the Film Commission that this version of Miami is going to be so cool on our show, that I think people are going to be like, "God, I have to go down there and put on a cool suit. It's too fucking beautiful."


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