Sonnenfeld bags strip pic

To unreel Chippendales saga

Touchstone Pictures has made a deal for Barry Sonnenfeld to direct a film about the bizarre rise and fall of Steve Banerjee, the creator of the male strip club Chippendales.

The studio made a mid-six figure outright purchase of screen rights to “Chippendales,” an unpublished book by Rodney Shelton. Touchstone will hire a scribe to adapt the book into the “Casino” of the male dancing industry.

Banerjee came from India to L.A. After making a small fortune owning and operating gas stations, he hatched a backgammon club and was figuratively losing his shirt, until told about a Canadian club where the guys stripped off their shirts and everything else, packing in the female customers.

Backgammon was dropped for backsides and pecs, and Chippendales was an immediate sensation, a business that left Baner-jee flush with cash. He turned out to be his own worst enemy, as his naivete in running such a business led him to get in bed with organized crime, developing a drug problem along the way.

The film follows his travails, along with the cops who brought him down. He was finally jailed after apparently engaging hit-men to bump off associates, and he was found hanged in a jail cell.

“I love the idea of doing Chippendales at Disney,” said Sonnenfeld, who felt that it could be done in the comic spirit of his hit MGM film “Get Shorty.” “This is the embodiment of the American dream gone horribly wrong,” he said. “It’s funny, surreal, absurdist and it really happened.” Sonnenfeld, who last directed “Men in Black,” is prepping “Wild Wild West” at Warner Bros. with Will Smith and Kevin Kline.

Sonnenfeld and partner Barry Josephson will produce “Chippendales” with David Permut and Prelude Pictures. It was brought in at Sonnenfeld/Josephson by Caroline Andoscia and Jason Anthony. Mickey Freiberg of The Artists Agency repped the book.

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