The life story of magicians and entertainers Siegfried and Roy is coming to the big screen. German multihyphenate Michael Bully Herbig, one of Germany’s biggest stars and most successful directors, is partnering with UFA Fiction to direct two feature film projects, including a biopic about the German-American entertainers, whose Las Vegas act with big cats made them world-famous.
Herbig most recently directed the 2018 real-life hit drama “Balloon,” about two East German families who tried to escape to West Germany in a hot-air balloon in 1979. The critically acclaimed film earned about $8 million at the German box office for Studiocanal last fall.
Long in development at UFA originally as a TV production, the big-screen “Siegfried & Roy” will tell the story of Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Uwe Horn, who met on a cruise ship in 1960 and, driven by their common passion for the art of magic and illusion, went on to developed their famous act. They achieved their international breakthrough in 1966 with at a benefit show in Monte Carlo.
The duo later moved to Las Vegas, where they established themselves as one of the city’s biggest acts, performing for more than 25 million people. Their long and hugely successful career ended tragically in 2003 when one of their famous white tigers attacked and critically injured Horn during a show at the Mirage, where they had performed their “Siegfried and Roy Show,” dubbed the “Show of the Century” by Time Magazine, since 1990.
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UFA CEO Nico Hofmann secured rights to Siegfried and Roy’s life story in 2016. Philipp Stölzl (“Goethe!”) was originally set to direct the project for television from a screenplay by Jan Berger, with whom Stölzl also partnered on 2013’s “The Physician” and the upcoming romantic comedy “Ich war noch niemals in New York” (which translates as “I have never been to New York”). The plans for a TV production fell through earlier this year when pubcaster WDR pulled out of the project. The film will be based on Berger’s script.
UFA Fiction managing director Sebastian Werninger will serve as an executive producer on the film, alongside Siegfried and Roy themselves via their S&R Enterprises. Jan Mewes will also executive produce for S&R Enterprises.
Herbig is also directing “Der Fall Claas Relotius” (which translates as “The Case of Claas Relotius”), about the high-profile case of the disgraced former journalist of the title, who was forced to resign from the prestigious German newsweekly Der Spiegel last year after admitting numerous instances of journalistic fraud. The film is based on Juan Moreno’s book “A Thousand Lines of Lies: The Relotius System and What it Means for German Journalism.” Werninger secured exclusive film rights to the book, which was published by Rowohlt Berlin Verlag and examines one of the biggest fraud scandals in German journalism, last March.
“Both stories literally scream for being produced for the big screen,” said Herbig. “I’m really looking forward to making these extraordinary productions, which will surely occupy me for quite some time. But I will enjoy every second of it.”
Herbig has directed some of Germany’s most successful films ever, including the western and sci-fi spoofs “Manitou’s Shoe” and “Traumschiff Surprise – Periode 1.”
“After we were able to secure the rights to Juan Moreno’s book, I immediately approached Michael Bully Herbig because I always wanted to work with him and had only waited for the right project,” Werninger said. “That’s how we also got to talking about ‘Siegfried & Roy.’ Just like Nico Hofmann, Bully Herbig has long been interested in filming the unique story of the two magicians. That’s why we had the idea to team up here as well – magic knows no bounds.”