×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Milli Vanilli Biopic Producers Hope End of Ratner Deal Could Revive Long-Gestating Project

"This is a compelling story that has yet to be told,” says EP Kim Marlowe.

The history of the “Untitled Milli Vanilli Movie” has been almost as much of a roller coaster ride as the duo’s infamous career. The latest roadblock for the biopic, which dates back to a 2007 screenplay by fan Jeff Nathanson, who wanted to direct the film himself, was the demise of Brett Ratner’s $450 million co-financing deal with Warner Bros. for his RatPac Entertainment, which the studio officially announced it wouldn’t renew on April 10. The company was responsible for some of the studio’s biggest hits last year, including “Wonder Woman,” “It,” “Dunkirk” and “The Lego Batman Movie.”

Ratner was set to take the director’s chair for the proposed $20-30 million production, helming his first project since 2014’s “Hercules.” Shooting was planned for both Berlin and Los Angeles, but once Ratner became the subject of sexual harassment accusations late last year, the momentum stopped.

Milli Vanilli’s epic rise and fall began when Fab Morvan and the late Rob Pilatus met on the German dance scene, their worldwide breakthrough engineered by then-powerhouse Euro producer Frank Farian. After signing to Clive Davis and Arista in the U.S., Milli Vanilli’s 1989 debut album, “Girl, You Know It’s True,” produced five Top 5 pop hits (including three #1’s and a #2) and spent eight weeks at #1 on the Billboard 200, ultimately selling 14 million globally. When a sound system mishap while on an MTV-promoted tour revealed the twosome to be mouthing to pre-existing vocal tracks – lip-synching — the duo publicly returned their Grammy for Best New Artist.

Nathanson’s screenplay was originally optioned by the husband/wife team of Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall for Universal before Kennedy left for LucasFilm in 2012, with Marshall still retaining the rights, for which he could be asking as much as $1 million. When Ratner originally dropped out, Kennedy tapped Oscar-winning German director Florian Gallenberger, who took home an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film in 2001 for “Quiero Ser (I Want to Be).” At one point during the process, French actor/comic Omar Sy – who starred in the worldwide comedy hit “The Intouchables” — was considered for one of the leads.

Before he abruptly lost his deal at Warner Bros., Ratner reportedly told people he had Oscar winner Christoph Waltz lined up to play the villainous Farian and was set to cast Les Twins – identical twin brothers Laurent and Larry Nicolas Bourgeois – as Rob and Fab. The pair, already famous in France for their YouTube videos, finished first in Jennifer Lopez’ 2017 reality competition TV series “World of Dance,” earning a $1 million grand prize. They also served as back-up dancers for Beyonce, Meghan Trainor and Missy Elliott, and have modeled for Jean Paul Gaultier as well as several high-profile TV advertising campaigns, which fit in perfectly with Milli Vanilli’s fashion roots.

Nathanson, an avowed Milli Vanilli fan, first contacted Morvan’s manager (and the movie’s executive producer) Kim Marlowe through the band website, and subsequently penned the treatment. Shortly afterward, Ratner, also an admirer of the duo, attached himself to direct what he described as a “passion project” for him. The screenplay offered a revision to the conventional narrative, with Rob and Fab portrayed as sympathetic victims of rampant greed and exploitation at the hands of the record industry machinery.

An early version of Nathanson’s treatment also deals with the class action consumer fraud case, which wound its way through the courts, as the label was ultimately forced to compensate buyers who claimed to be duped.

Milli Vanilli’s Pilatus died in 1998 of a suspected drug overdose, while Morvan has continued his solo career in Amsterdam, where he has become part of the local dance music scene.

With rights reverting back to executive producer Marlowe, who has remained steady as the film has traveled its winding path and is confident the movie will find a new home. “This is a compelling story that has yet to be told,” she says. “The movie has all the elements for success, including vintage MTV style, great dance sequences and a narrative that has both triumph and tragedy.”

Adds leading entertainment attorney Eric Greenspan, partner at L.A. firm of Myman Greenspan Fineman Fox Rosenberg & Light, who represents Marlowe on the project: “As George Santayana once said, ‘Those who don’t remember the past are doomed to repeat it…’ There are a lot of lessons to be learned from the Milli Vanilli story that still resonate today.”

Speaking to Variety by phone from Amsterdam, Milli Vanilli’s surviving member Morvan is ever-optimistic the movie will get made one day. “We made history once,” he says. “We’re ready to do it again.”

More Music

  • Editorial use only. No merchandising.Mandatory Credit:

    Lady Gaga Slams Government Shutdown, Mike Pence at Vegas Residency

    Lady Gaga took a short break from singing “Million Reasons” at her Saturday performance of “Enigma” in Las Vegas to slam the president for the continued government shutdown. While sitting at the piano for her performance, Gaga broke into a takedown of the government shutdown and Vice President Mike Pence, who has been in the [...]

  • maggie rogers

    Album Review: Maggie Rogers' 'Heard It in a Past Life'

    Maggie Rogers earned one of those very rare “Saturday Night Live” slots in which a musical guest is booked onto the show well in advance of her major label debut album’s release — two and a half months prior, in this case. And the scrutiny of such an appearance is not always pretty. Rogers’ “SNL” [...]

  • iHeartRadio Alter Ego Review

    Concert Review: Muse, Weezer, the Killers Rock iHeartRadio Alter Ego 2019

    iHeartRadio’s Alter Ego — a multi-band bill that serves to showcase some of the biggest names in alternative rock — is a relatively new creation, but clearly one that’s been embraced by radio listeners in the greater Los Angeles area who filled the Forum on a Saturday night. Twenty-One Pilots, the Revivalists, Rise Against, Bishop [...]

  • BURBANK, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 18: (EDITORIAL

    Dax Shepard, Bobby Bones, 'Breakfast Club' Among iHeartRadio Podcast Awards Winners

    iHeartRadio launched its first ever Podcast Awards on Friday (January 18) in Los Angeles. Among the winners in 22 categories were “Whine Down with Jana Kramer” (Best Entertainment TV Podcast); “Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard (Breakout Podcast); “Bobbycast” (Music Podcast); and “The Breakfast Club” (Best Multicultural Podcast). The winners were determined by iHeartRadio listeners. Taking the top prize of Podcast [...]

  • Fyre Festival Caterer Receives Thousands in

    Unpaid Fyre Festival Caterer Raises Thousands in Donations on GoFundMe

    As two Fyre Festival documentaries hit the airwaves, a couple who say their credit was ruined due to the Fyre Festival’s lack of payment for their services have raised $54,381 at time of publication on GoFundMe. Elvis and Maryann Rolle wrote on their page that they catered “no less than 1000 meals per day” in [...]

  • DF-10956_R – Gwilym Lee (Brian May) and

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Producer Confirms Bryan Singer's Reason for Leaving, Says 'No One' Was Attached to Play Mercury

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” producer Graham King provided insight into some of the events surrounding the Golden Globe-winning film Saturday at the Producers Guild Awards Nominees Breakfast, including director Bryan Singer’s departure from the film partway through production. “It’s an unfortunate situation, with like 16, 17 days to go and Bryan Singer just had some issues, his [...]

  • R. Kelly

    R. Kelly Accusers Detail Abuse, Reveal Evidence on 'Dateline'

    The continuing controversy surrounding R. Kelly, including allegations of sexual abuse by a number of women over three decades, was the focus of Friday’s episode of “Dateline.” Speaking to accusers Sparkle, Jerhonda Pace and parents Tim and Jonjelyn Savage, among others, NBC’s Andrea Canning heard more harrowing tales of abduction and sexual misconduct on the part [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content