Hollywood was indicted for allegedly being the leader of a drug gang and orchestrating Markowitz's killing. He fled after the murder and became at age 20 one of the youngest people to be pictured on the FBI's website as a wanted fugitive.
The 5-foot-4, tough-talking Hollywood was a "cult hero" to Valley kids, says Michael Mehas, associate producer of Alpha Dog. "It's that rebel, anti-authority image," Mehas says.
Hollywood was a fugitive for 4½ years until he was captured in Brazil in March 2005. He has pleaded innocent.
"Having him get caught has been a mixed blessing," Mehas says. "It turned the spotlight on the case, but it enmeshed the film in the real-life story."
Ron Zonen, the chief deputy district attorney in Santa Barbara County, says Hollywood and others kidnapped Markowitz to pressure his older half brother to pay a $1,200 drug debt. After Hollywood's lawyer told him that kidnapping for extortion carries a life sentence, Hollywood ordered the abducted boy killed, Zonen says.
By 2003, Zonen had won convictions of four young men linked with Hollywood. The accused triggerman, Ryan Hoyt, is on death row and is appealing his conviction. TV's America's Most Wanted and other shows failed to produce any good tips to find Hollywood. His trail had gone cold in Canada, Zonen says.
Then director-screenwriter Cassavetes asked Zonen to cooperate on a movie "that was going to be accurate and use original names," the prosecutor says. "He said it was going to reach an international audience. That was the appeal."
Zonen says he knew that Cassavetes' parents were actress Gena Rowlands and the late director-actor John Cassavetes. "I felt he had the Hollywood pedigree — that's Hollywood with a small 'h' — to make it fly," says Zonen, who was a prosecutor in Michael Jackson's child-molestation trial last year. Jackson was acquitted.
Mehas says Zonen gave the filmmakers his notebook from the four previous prosecutions in the Markowitz case, in addition to police and probation reports, a psychological report on Hoyt and crime photos.
The film follows Zonen's theory of the crime, but Cassavetes was unable to keep a promise to the prosecutor: All names were changed on advice from lawyers for the producers. Hollywood became Johnny Truelove, played by Emile Hirsch.