The Magic Mike meets Scarface saga of the ’80s male strip club Chippendales is finally coming to the big screen. Bold Films has committed to finance Chippendales; Lion star Dev Patel is in talks to play Steve Banerjee, the Bombay-born immigrant who turned an LA dive bar into a multimillion-dollar cultural zeitgeist sensation. Ben Stiller will play Nick DeNoia, an Emmy-winning producer of children’s shows who recruited the musclebound G-string clad dancers, choreographed their routines and ran a touring company of strippers.
The final script is being written by Isaac Adamson, whose Black List script Bubbles is being turned into a stop-motion animated film about Michael Jackson and his chimp (Netflix pre-bought it at Cannes for $20 million). The film will be produced by Permut Presentations’ David Permut, Bold’s owner Michel Litvak and Gary Michael Walters, and Red Hour’s Stiller and Nicky Weinstock. Lisa Zambri will be exec producer along with Peter Saphier and Rodney Sheldon. Latter wrote the unpublished manuscript that served as a resource. Sentinel Pictures is also involved in a producing capacity.
“It is the Horatio Alger story gone horribly wrong,” said Bold’s Walters. “It is a true life Boogie Nights, a wild ride through the seamy underbelly where entertainment and criminality meet, during a period where the pendulum swung toward female sexuality.” Walters said Litvak actually met Banerjee and the original Chippendales partners decades ago, when he was asked to invest in their plans. Litvak found them to be a sketchy lot and demurred, but he followed the sordid events and sparked to backing the movie about the rise and fall of Chippendales.
Banerjee emigrated from India to Playa del Rey. Bored with pumping gas in a Mobil station he owned, he found an outlet for his entrepreneurial dreams when he acquired the struggling LA rock club Destiny II. He transformed it with a new name and theme nights that included female mud wrestling, and a “male exotic dance night for ladies only.” The latter caught on. Soon, Banerjee and his partners were presiding over a flesh empire that earned $8 million a year from club receipts, millions of beefcake calendars sold, and especially from touring companies. Besides DeNoia, early co-creators included Paul Snider, whose Playboy bunny girlfriend Dorothy Stratten helped come up with the signature cuffs and collars uniforms (before everything but the G-string came off). Snider would later murder Stratten and kill himself (a sordid tragedy chronicled in the Bob Fosse-directed Star 80). Lawsuits and disputes between Banerjee followed, leading to a violence-filled descent. DeNoia was murdered, shot in the face in his New York office. Banerjee would plead guilty of orchestrating that murder, and for an attempt to burn down rival clubs, and for hiring a hit man for other murders including another former Chippendales choreographer. Hours before he was to be sentenced to a long prison sentence for murder, arson and racketeering in 1994, Banerjee was found hanged in his jail cell, his death ruled a suicide.
The film aims to explore the perversion of the American dream theme, set in the “greed is good” ’80s cultural moment — replete with drugs and excess — that mirrored the rise of Chippendales. The film is 20 years in the making. That’s how long Permut has been shepherding Chippendales, with directors along the way including Oliver Stone, Tony Scott, Barry Sonnenfeld and David Michod. A director is the one piece missing here, but the producers expect to remedy that soon. They plan for the film to begin production next year. Stiller has long been interested, and his Red Hour and Permut Presentations teamed on the Jack Black-starrer The Polka King, which premiered last Sundance and will be released by Netflix.
Patel followed Best Picture nominee Lion with The Weinstein Company drama Hotel Mumbai. Stiller stars with Adam Sandler and Dustin Hoffman in the Noah Baumbach-directed The Meyerowitz Stories, which premiered in Cannes and bows on Netflix, as well as the Mike White-helmed Brad’s Status which Annapurna is releasing for Amazon on September 15.