Universal sets up Milli Vanilli film

Nathanson to write, direct biopic

Universal Pictures has acquired the rights to make a film about Milli Vanilli, the duo that rose to the top of the pop charts and fell just as quickly when they were exposed as frauds.

Jeff Nathanson will write the script and direct the film. Kathleen Kennedy will produce.

Nathanson, who presented a sympathetic look at a check forger in “Catch Me if You Can,” became intrigued with the notion of taking a similar tack on the music industry tale. He has secured the cooperation of Fabrice Morvan, as well as the estate of Rob Pilatus, who died in 1998 as the pair were attempting a comeback.

Pilatus and Morvan were hired by producer Frank Farian to front Milli Vanilli. Farian already had songs recorded by three other singers. Pilatus and Morvan became trapped in a lie when Milli Vanilli topped the charts and sold millions of records. Desperate to end the charade, the duo refused to promote a follow-up album unless Farian let them sing. Instead, he blew the whistle.

Their Grammy Award was rescinded, class action lawsuits were filed, and Milli Vanilli was dropped from the Arista roster. Pilatus took it hardest, falling into drug abuse and serving time for robbery before dying from a drug overdose right before a reunion album could be released.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the notion of fakes and frauds, and in this case, you had guys who pulled off the ultimate con, selling 30 million singles and 11 million albums and then becoming the biggest laughing-stocks of pop entertainment,” Nathanson said. “Fabrice had always refused to sell their rights; he was very cautious of Hollywood after all he’d been through. But my intention is to tell this story from their point of view.”

Nathanson will begin writing as soon as production is completed on “Rush Hour 3,” which he scripted.

He is repped by UTA.

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