Milli Vanilli: the movie - a sorry tale of music, manipulation and miming

In the music industry, Milli Vanilli is a byword for embarrassment and scandal. The pretty-boy duo, who soared to the top of the charts in the late Eighties and early Nineties with songs such as "Girl I'm Going To Miss You" and "Blame It On The Rain", were exposed as frauds after it emerged that they did not sing their own songs.

The American music academy rescinded a Grammy they had won for best new artist and the episode was an uncharacteristic blot on the otherwise extraordinary career of Clive Davis, the music executive extraordinaire who ran Milli Vanilli's label, Arista.

And now their story is set to become a film. Jeff Nathanson, a screenwriter who previously looked at the career of a conman in the Steven Spielberg-directed caper Catch Me If You Can, has sold the rights to a movie based on Milli Vanilli to Universal Pictures, according to yesterday's edition of the entertainment industry paper of record, Variety.

"I've always been fascinated by the notion of fakes and frauds, and in this case, you had guys who pulled off the ultimate con, selling 30 million singles and 11 million albums and then becoming the biggest laughing-stocks of pop entertainment," Nathanson told Variety.

In a world where images and digital manipulation have a disturbing habit of trumping reality, Nathanson may be on to something. Milli Vanilli, like so much of life in the 21st century, were all about the packaging - two long-haired, buff-chested guys who looked great on stage and on album covers and effectively acted as a front for a musical operation organised almost entirely without them. Fabrice Morvan and Rob Pilatus, the two hunks in question, were the creation of a record producer called Frank Farian, who first hired them in Europe and then brought them to the United States as their careers started taking off.

Legally speaking, the biggest mistake Clive Davis and Arista made was to attribute the voices on the group's first album, All or Nothing, to Morvan and Pilatus. The international edition of the record did no such thing.

Serious questions began to be asked after a concert in Connecticut in 1989 when the recording of the song "Girl You Know It's True" jammed, causing the line "Girl you know it's..." to repeat over and over - without, revealingly, the word "true". It became immediately clear that the duo was lip-synching on stage - something other packaged bands did too - and critics immediately wondered whether they ever sang at all.

Farian eventually came clean in November 1990 - causing the music academy to rescind Milli Vanilli's Grammy and prompting a torrent of class-action lawsuits from concert-goers and record buyers.

The lives of Morvan and Pilatus did not go smoothly after they were exposed. Pilatus became addicted to drugs and carried out a series of robberies, earning himself a three-month prison sentence at one stage. He died of a drug overdose in 1998, just as the pair were getting ready to release a comeback album featuring their real voices for once.

Morvan, meanwhile, has persisted on and off with his musical career. Despite taking numerous voice lessons, however, he has never proved to be a winner, commercially or critically. He has had to work as a Los Angeles radio disc jockey and as a participant in a Fox television reality show called Celebrity Boot Camp.

Nathanson said he intended to narrate his film from the duo's point of view. Many have argued that the men were pawns of an unscrupulous music industry that has never been shy about presenting illusion as reality if it can sell records.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballLatest score and Twitter updates
Arts and Entertainment
David Hasselhof in Peter Pan
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'