If you lived in New York during the ’90s, there’s a very good chance that you would have been dragged at least once to the Limelight nightclub that was built inside an old church on 20th Street and Avenue of the Americas. The club was second only to Studio 54 in terms of New York nightclubs known for their debaucherous behavior,. The owner of the club was Peter Gatien, an equally notorious individual with an eye patch who became quite famous for his NYC clubs, which also included the Tunnel and the Palladium.
Amazon Studios is getting on board to make a biopic about the club owner called LIMELIGHT, and the streaming network has just set Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) to direct from a screenplay by Nick Pileggi & J.J. Sacha. As it happens, both Gomez-Rejon and Sacha worked for Pileggi’s late wife, filmmaker Nora Ephron.
Amazon has also bought a memoir written by Gatien that covers his rise and fall as a club owner, which editor Laura Van Der Veer and Little A will publish in the fall of 2020.
Gatien’s daughter Jennifer Gatien, who previously produced a documentary about her father by Billy Corben, will produce the narrative film about her father’s life through her company Deerjen Productions, along with LBI Entertainment’s Christopher Donnelly.
The Canadian Gatien was quite a well-known figure on the NYC club and party scene, being quite prominent with his eye patch covering a hockey accident from his youth. Gatien’s empire began with Limelight clubs in Florida and Atlanta before building the church-based club in New York City. The latter quickly became one of the hottest clubs in New York, and Gatien’s various club ventures was reportedly bringing in more than $500,000 per week. Long before the rise of raves, the Limelight also became notorious for some of the drug-addled activities that occured there, which at one point, even led to a murder.
Pileggi previously wrote Casino and Goodfellas for Martin Scorsese to direct, and Limelight will follow a similar biopic format as it covers the rise of Gatien’s empire and the problems he had with organized crime trying to cut into his business. The Limelight was eventually taken down by former mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s campaign to clean up the city, and Gatien was prosecuted for the distribution of Ecstasy, and the cost of defending himself eventually ruined Gatien.
Repped by WME and LBI Entertainment, Gomez-Rejon got a lot of attention for his second feature Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, ʼwhich won both the Jury Prize and Audience Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Gomez-Rejon’s most recent film The Current War, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Shannon as Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last Sept. before getting caught up in the entire Weinstein scandal/bankruptcy which has put many of the company’s planned releases in question.
Pileggi is also repped by WME, and Deadline first reported this story.
Edward Douglas | East Coast Editor