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Sicilian mafiosi mingle with stars of Ocean's 12

John Hooper in Rome
Thursday July 15, 2004
The Guardian

George Clooney, Catherine Zeta-Jones and other stars of the crime caper Ocean's 12 were closer to real life than they suspected while filming on Sicily, it emerged yesterday.

Police said members of a local Cosa Nostra clan had been tracked as they mingled with the two principals, and supporting stars Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, and Julia Roberts, on the set of the movie, a sequel to Ocean's 11.

Giuseppe Linares, a senior officer in the port of Trapani on the north-west of the island, said: "Three members of the Castellammare del Golfo mafia family made rounds of the set all day and night, keeping close to the set and the actors in the hotel where they slept."

On Tuesday, police in Trapani announced they had rounded up 19 suspected clan members at the end of a two-year operation - though it was unclear whether the arrests were due to an attempt to penetrate the film-making.

A further four jailed mobsters were served with arrest warrants in prison.

Two of those arrested were wives of men jailed for mafia offences who, it is claimed, took up their husbands' leading roles in their absence.

This month Ocean's 12's director, Steven Soderbergh, shifted the film to a stretch of spectacular rugged coast near the town of Scopello, which the Castellamare del Golfo clan regards as within its territory.

But it was not immediately clear what its representatives hoped to achieve by attaching themselves to the filming.

Judicial sources said they were suspected of seeking protection money from the production company.

The newspaper Corriere della Sera yesterday identified two men it said had been followed by plainclothes officers on the set and were known to be "collectors" for the local family.

But Mr Linares suggested they might have feared that a secret cache of weapons could have been discovered during filming.

He said the three mafiosi "were monitored by police via global positioning satellite and by plainclothes officers who were ready to swoop if there was any meddling or particularly suspicious activity".

Though that will be reassuring to other foreign producers the Sicilian authorities are trying to lure to their beautiful island, the fact that the mafia was able to penetrate the set is bound to cause concern.

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