Everyone’s favorite ’80s pop star scandal are back, and they’ve brought their own hair gel.
Leonine Studios has dropped the first two images from their hotly anticipated Milli Vanilli music biopic Girl You Know It’s True, and the first look is something to see.
After several failed attempts to bring the story of the rise and scandalous fall of the ’80s pop stars to the screen, Leonine, together with star producers Wiedemann & Berg (Dark, The Lives of Others), are currently shooting the feature, which is expected to wrap in December.
Elan Ben Ali and Tijan Njie and (see above) star as Fabrice Morvan and Robert Pilatus, the top-charting pop R&B duo out of Munich who became global stars in the 1980s, scoring three No. 1 hits in the U.S. But the duo had a dirty secret: they were a fake band, created by music producer Frank Farian. Pilatus and Morvan never did their own singing, instead lip-syncing to the voices of two other artists. At the height of their fame, Milli Vanilli won big at the Grammys but the truth soon emerged, and the group came toppling to earth, dropping from superstardom to become a punchline. After a failed comeback attempt, Pilatus’ life spiraled out of control. In 1998, he was found dead in a Frankfurt hotel room of a suspected alcohol and prescription drug overdose.
Matthias Schweighöfer, star of Netflix hit Army of Thieves, will play Frank Farian in Girl You Know It’s True. A first-look image from the film shows him looking self-satisfied, with suitably ’80s hair in front of a mixing board in the studio (below). Schweighöfer next appears in the Toronto Film Festival title The Swimmers and has a supporting role in Christopher Nolan’s upcoming Oppenheimer.
Simon Verhoeven (Welcome to Germany, Men in the City) is directing Girl You Know It’s True based on his own original screenplay. Graham Rogers (Ray Donovan) co-stars as Milli Vanilli’s U.S. assistant, Todd. Bella Dayne (Humans) plays Milli, Farian’s right-hand.
“Girl You Know It’s True is captivating on so many levels,” says Verhoeven, “it not only tells the spectacular rise of two underdogs making it to the zenith of showbiz within one summer, it also gives a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of that illusory world of fame and its sometimes tragic and unscrupulous machinations. Personally, I think Rob and Fab did not deserve to become the sole scapegoats of this scandal.”
Verhoeven is producing Girl You Know It’s True together with Farian and Stefan Gärtner.
The film is being shot in Munich, Berlin, Capetown, South Africa and Los Angeles. The title comes from Milli Vanilli’s 1989 breakout hit, Farian’s cover of an original song by U.S. hip-hop group Numarx. Nurmax band member Kevin Liles, CEO of music company 300 Entertainment, is executive producing Girl You Know It’s True. Associate producers are Jasmin Davis, daughter of the late John Davis, and Brad Howell, the true voices behind Milli Vanilli. Carmen Pilatus, sister of the late Rob Pilatus, Milli Vanilli’s former assistant Todd Headlee, and Ingrid Segieth aka Milli, are also attached as associate producers.
Leonine Studios and Wiedemann & Berg Film are producing the film in co-production with Sentana Film, SevenPictures and Mediawan.
Independent from the feature project, U.S. group MRC Non-Fiction is producing a documentary on Milli Vanilli of the same name, directed by Luke Korem. Korem also serves as a producer via his Keep on Running Pictures, with Bradley Jackson and Fulwell 73 also producing, and Hanif Abdurraqib as executive producer.
The Hollywood Reporter is part of PMRC holdings, a joint venture between PMC and MRC.