NEW YORK — MGM has made a deal to develop a feature out of the story of one of the biggest art-fraud scandals of the 20th century for a drama that will be developed as a starring vehicle for Michael Douglas.
The studio has optioned “Art Con of the Century,” an investigative article written last year by author and journalist Peter Landesman, and has hired “M. Butterfly” playwright David Henry Hwang to write the script. The film will be produced by Furthur Films, Douglas and Alison Segan, and Empire Pictures’ Michael Birnbaum, who’s also producing “Outlaws” at MGM.
Douglas, who won his actor Oscar playing “Wall Street” scoundrel Gordon Gekko, has always wanted to play a gentleman thief. In the film, he would play John Drewe, a charismatic con who in 1986 found painter-songwriter John Myatt, who had a knack for producing copies of paintings by master artists that regularly fooled art experts. Drewe paid Myatt to crank out purported originals that were sold all over the world for large sums, a nine-year escapade that put 200 forgeries into circulation.
While it seemed that Myatt did not fully understand the gravity of what he was doing, Drewe got away with the charade through charm, and because he forged declarations of authenticity from previous owners that made the paintings seem legit.
Scotland Yard investigators brought an end to Drewe’s scam by getting Myatt to confess and then help catch the mastermind. Drewe is serving a six-year stretch, but only 73 of the 200 bogus paintings have been taken out of circulation.
Douglas is repped by William Morris. Landesman, whose books include “Blood Acre” and “The Raven,” is repped by CAA and managed by Hayley Sumner; his attorney is George Hayum.