“War Dogs” is a film based on a Miami Beach story too strange to be fiction: a pair of young, upstart stoners hustle their way from peddling guns and ammo to landing a $300 million arms dealing contract for the United States government.
Along the way, director Todd Phillips leaned heavily on what some would argue are Miami’s best assets: glimmering ocean views, towering palm trees, and ultra-flashy real estate — including a waterfront spec manse built by Todd Glaser.
At the beginning of the film, our unlikely protagonist David Packouz (played by Miles Teller) is working a dead-end job as a massage therapist in Miami Beach, lamenting his life of oiling up rich people’s backs to make rent.
One such scene plays out in the outdoor spa of an all-white mega mansion facing Biscayne Bay. Packouz is there to massage Gary, another of his wealthy clients, who “accidentally” drops his towel mid-session.
County film permits pulled by The Real Deal reveal the locale to be none other than spec developer Glaser’s ultra-modern project at 5446 North Bay Road, which is currently listed at $29 million.
Glaser told TRD that he met director Todd Phillips over dinner one night through a mutual friend, Harmony Korine, who co-wrote “Kids” and directed “Spring Breakers.”
“We met several years ago and became very good friends,” Glaser said. “When [Phillips] came to Miami, he told me ‘Look, I’m shooting a film and we need an uber-sick house.’”
The irony is that Glaser knew the real people depicted in “War Dogs:” Packouz and his partner, Efraim Diveroli. Glaser rented unit 2 at 2228 Park Avenue to Diveroli for “$9,000 or $10,000” a month in the late 2000s, and had to cancel the lease following the federal investigation against the partners for repackaging illegal Chinese ammunition as part of their deal with the U.S. to supply Afghanistan’s military.
“I was actually able to help him in the movie story line with some of the stuff that I knew,” Glaser said.
About midway through “War Dogs,” Packouz and Diveroli have elevated themselves from small-time gun runners to international arms dealers.
Befitting their new-found wealth, the two pick out a pair of condos in a ritzy Miami tower. In the true story, those units are in South Beach’s Flamingo complex. But for the film, Phillips picked out a more modern building: downtown Miami’s Marina Blue. County permits don’t show a unit number, though the floor plan and views are an exact match to the penthouses at the Marina Blue.
It wasn’t the only locale swap made: instead of Albania, where the two potheads sourced 100 million rounds of AK-47 ammo, the film crew shot in Romania. And for their scenes in Jordan and Iraq, the team flew to Morocco.
“War Dogs” isn’t the first time one of Glaser’s properties has made it to the big screen. His personal home in Miami Beach was featured in “Transporter 2,” and famed singer-songwriter Rihanna used 5446 North Bay Road as a location in her “Needed Me” music video, which has some 80 million hits on youtube.
For a single day of shooting “War Dogs,” Glaser said, the production team cut him a check between “40,000 or $50,000,” though he wasn’t sure what the exact sum was.
While he’s had luck with the movie biz, Glaser has had trouble selling the North Bay Road mega-manse. It was first listed for sale back in 2014 after construction finished for $37 million, but he sliced $5 million off the ask after almost two years. In July, the price was further reduced to $29 million, with the listing currently belonging to Douglas Elliman’s Brett Harris.
Considering the home’s $450,000 annual property tax bill, the filming only dented Glaser’s carrying costs, though he said “it certainly helps.”