I, Tonya director Craig Gillespie has a new shocking true story in the works. Gillespie will helm a pic based on the Chippendales murders, in which Somen “Steve” Banerjee, the co-founder of the male exotic dance club, ordered several of his ex-dancers killed. Dev Patel is attached to star as Banerjee, with a script by Craig Williams. It’s the type of scandalous true crime saga that Gillespie tackled with I, Tonya, which suggests he’s a good fit for the film.
Deadline has the scoop about Craig Gillespie directing the Chippendales murder movie starring Dev Patel. I’m a bit of a true crime buff, but I’ll confess I’ve never heard of this story before. Here are the details, per Deadline’s story:
The story follows Steve Banerjee (Patel), who emigrated from India to Playa del Rey to chase the dream of fame and fortune. Bored with pumping gas in the Mobil station he owned, he found an outlet for his entrepreneurial dreams when he acquired the struggling L.A. 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,” with the latter catching on. Soon, Banerjee and his partners were presiding over a flesh empire that earned $8 million a year from club receipts, millions of calendars of its main attraction being sold, with a large amount coming from touring companies. Lawsuits and disputes between Banerjee followed, leading to a violence-filled descent.
Weirdly enough, there’s no mention of murders in that synopsis, so for that, I turn to Wikipedia, which adds:
Banerjee was later charged with having enlisted the aid of Ray Colon, in 1990 and 1991, to help carry out a plot to kill Michael Fullington, a former Chippendales dancer and choreographer, and two other ex-Chippendales dancers, who Banerjee felt were competition to the Chippendales franchise. He was also indicted for allegedly orchestrating the 1987 murder of his former choreographer/added partner Nick De Noia. It was also alleged that it was his intent to also have Nahin murdered. He eventually pleaded guilty to attempted arson, racketeering, and murder for hire. He entered into a plea agreement that would have led to 26 years in prison, loss of his share of the Chippendales’ parent company (Nahin retaining his share), and most of his estate.
I thought I, Tonya was pretty good, although its tone was a bit wonky. Thankfully, it was centered by a strong performance from Margot Robbie. I have a feeling the same thing is going to happen here – the tone might be all over the place, but Dev Patel is likely to turn in a memorable piece of acting that makes the movie work.
This won’t be the first movie to tackle the story, either. There was a made-for-TV movie called The Chippendales Murder in 2000, which had Lost actor Naveen Andrews as Banerjee. The late Tony Scott was also considering turning the story into a film but never got around to it.
Gillespie just wrapped on Cruella, the 101 Dalmations prequel starring Emma Stone. Patel will next be seen in The Green Knight, provided A24 gets off their butt and releases it.
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