EXCLUSIVE: Amazon Studios has set Alfonso Gomez-Rejon to direct Limelight, a feature being written by Nick Pileggi & J.J. Sacha about the reign and fall of Peter Gatien, the 1990s king of Gotham nightlife who owned the hip clubs Limelight and The Tunnel.
Jen Gatien (his daughter) will produce through Deerjen with Christopher Donnelly of LBI. Gatien, a dashing Canadian with an eye patch to cover a youthful hockey accident that gave him seed money for his first club, worked his way into the nightclub world opening Limelight clubs in Florida, Atlanta and finally New York. The New York version of Limelight — housed a converted Episcopalian church — was the hottest club in town, where Shirley MacLaine’s 50th birthday was held, where notorious Party Monster club kid Michael Alig was arrested and later convicted of dismembering a fellow club kid, and where a scene from Basic Instinct was filmed. Gatien became a multimillionaire and was for awhile the toast of New York, even producing the Robert De Niro-directed A Bronx Tale. Other clubs including The Tunnel became successes as well.
At their peak, Gatien’s clubs earned $500,000 in cash per week. The film is being framed similar to pics like Casino and Goodfellas (Pileggi wrote both from his non-fiction books) as it will chronicle the fast rise and problems unique to cash businesses. Among other things, Gatien was hounded by organized crime looking for shakedown payments, but his real nemesis was the city’s law and order mayor, the former federal prosecutor who brought down organized crime figures. Rudolph Giuliani added nightclubs to the targets of his Gotham cleanup campaign, and the heat increased after a shipment of Ecstasy was intercepted from JFK Airport the was believed to be headed for the clubs. The legal pursuit of Gatien was unrelenting. Named in a federal indictment that attempted to link Gatien with sales of Ecstasy at his clubs, Gatien was acquitted. The cost of defending himself was ruinous and the legal pursuit continued. He ultimately plead guilty to tax evasion and the Department of Homeland deported him back to Canada — with $500 in his pocket.
Amazon has also just bought a memoir by Peter Gatien of his club story that editor Laura Van Der Veer will publish through Little, A for fall of 2020. His daughter Jennifer previously produced the a Billy Corben-directed docu on her father’s life.
Gomez-Rejon directed Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and most recently he has been re-editing The Current War — the race between Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) to deliver electricity to American homes — for when the project ultimately emerges from The Weinstein Company bankruptcy. An early cut of the film played the last Toronto Film Festival. Both Gomez-Rejon and Pileggi’s co-writer Sacha grew up working for Pileggi’s late wife, Nora Ephron, making an easy creative match on the movie.
Gomez-Rejon is repped by WME and LBI, while Pileggi is WME.