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Tolkien Biopic In Development at Fox Searchlight

Posted on 22 November 2013 by Rich Drees

Tolkien

Peter Jackson has shown that there is profit to be found in bringing the work of J R R Tolkien to the big screen. And now Fox Searchlight is hoping that that will apply to the author himself. The studio is developing a biopic, titled simply Tolkien, of the English writer’s life and how he came to create Middle Earth, the most popular and influential fantasy settings in all of literature.

Irish filmmaker David Gleeson, a self-professed “a Tolkien superfan and scholar of sorts” is the motivator behind the project, according to the LA Times.

Gleeson, who wrote and directed the indie films Cowboys & Angels and The Front Line, is working on a screenplay that will center mainly on Tolkien’s experiences in World War I and his early career as a professor at Pembroke College, exploring how the author’s writing was shaped by his real life.

This is not the first attempt to get the author’s life portrayed in film. A few years back there was a project called Mirkwood which was to have shown Tolkien’s experience as a codebreaker during World War Two. It has apparently died in development, supposedly after running into objections from the notoriously difficult Tolkien estate. It is not clear if the estate will be cooperating or not with this new film, though that will undoubtedly become more apparent as things move forward.

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Heeeeeere’s A Johnny Carson Biopic

Posted on 14 November 2012 by Rich Drees

The estate of Johnny Carson is teaming with Black Swan-screenwriter John MacLaughlin and Hitchcock producer Tom Thayer for a biopic on the legendary late-night talk show host. The film will be based on Bill Zehme’s upcoming book Carson: The Magnificent: An Intimate Portrait. MacLaughlin is currently working on the script, which Deadline states will be taken out to potential investors after the holidays.

As a journalist, Zehme is well known for his work covering comedy. He has previously written about current late-night mainstays Jay Leno and David Letterman as well as an in-depth biography of groundbreaking comic Andy Kaufman. Zehme was the only journalist that Carson ever acquiesced to talk to following his retirement.

For you young whippersnappers, long before current host Jay Leno watered-down the franchise, Carson’s tenure on NBC’s The Tonight Show was considered the gold standard of talk shows. His interview style was conversational and non-confrontational and he treated every guest, from the biggest names in show business to average people who collected potato chips, the same. Not only a pretty funny comic himself, and one who acknowledged that he stole much of his style from radio star Jack Benny, Carson loved bringing new, young comics to national attention. A single, well-received shot on The Tonight Show was enough to shot their career into the stratosphere.

But for however well Carson’s professional life was, he had a troubled private life, one that was littered with many failed marriages and the tragic death of his son. And the backstage machinations by leno’s then-manager that led to Carson’s forced retirement and Leno taking over the show are the stuff of infamous legend.

Carson kept to himself following his retirement, shying away from the spotlight. After his death, it was revealed that he had occasionally sent jokes over to David Letterman to use.

Here a just a few great Carson moments. Feel free to fall down a Carson/YouTube rabbit hole, you probably won’t be disappointed with what you find.

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John Cusack Developing Rush Limbaugh Biopic

Posted on 04 November 2012 by Rich Drees

John Cusack is developing a biopic about controversial talk show host Rush Limbaugh. Cusack will also star in the project, tentatively titled Rush, which is being developed through his production company, New Crime Productions. Although no writer was named, it was stated that the script is nearing completion and the the project should start shooting next year. Betty Thomas, who also directed the biopic of talk radio superstar Howard Stern, Private Parts, is set to direct.

Although some would probably suspect a rather partisan lambasting of Limbaugh, a statement about the film released by New Crime to the Hollywood Reporter stated, “The script would explore the rise and reinvention of American Talk Radio, and Limbaugh’s continued influence and impact over the last three decades in that world.”

Limbaugh first rose to national prominence in the late 1980s and it was his heated political rhetoric and attacks that seldom held up to factual scrutiny that helped create the severe political divide that the country currently suffers under. Although he has spoken at political events, he has tried to hide behind the label of “entertainer” when confronted over his more egregious statements. He once again trotted out this defense after calling a Georgetown law student who spoke out about the need for female contraception to be covered by insurance plans for various women’s health needs a “slut” and a “prostitute” on air.

A college drop out, Limbaugh’s career in radio started after he was classified “1-Y” and then later “4-F” by the military and was ineligible for duty in Vietnam. He worked at a number of stations through the 1970s, first as a DJ and then in sales until he finally took a job as promotions director for the Kansas City Royals baseball team in 1979. He went back to radio in 1984, when he took over Morton Downey Jr’s airslot on a talk radio station in Sacramento. Once the Reagan administration tore down the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, Limbaugh was poised to take his show national. Although an outspoken critic of drug users, Limbaugh had his own brushes with the law over illegally obtaining the prescription drugs oxycodone and hydrocodone and having possession of viagra that had not been prescribed to him.

Given that Cusack’s political leanings are in direct opposition to Limbaugh’s, the film should be fairly interesting. Given that Cusack’s and Limbaugh’s body types are also fairly different from one another, how the actor will be transformed into the radio talker should be equally as interesting.

A representative for Limbaugh stated that he had not talked to the radio show host about the film yet, though I imagine Limbaugh will have quite a lot to say when he takes to the air this week.

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David O. Russell Signs On For Buddy Cianci Biopic

Posted on 17 April 2012 by Rich Drees

If you ever heard the name Buddy Cianci it is probably for one of two reasons – 1) His infamous tenures as mayor of Providence, RI which each ended in jail time or 2) Him being the name sake for the junior high school on Seth McFarlane’s fictional Providence suburb Family Guy setting of Quahog, RI.

But if you don’t know about Buddy through either of those two options, The Fighter director David O Russell is going to give you a third option. He has just signed on to direct a biopic on the colorful Cianci that is being developed by New York-based production company of Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal.

The currently untitled film will be based on Cianci’s own memoir with the somewhat ungainly title of Politics and Pasta: How I Prosecuted Mobsters, Rebuilt a Dying City, Advised a President, Dined With Sinatra, Spent Five Years in a Federally Funded Gated Community and Lived to Tell the Tale. There’s no word as to who will adapt the book, but the LA Times is reporting that while Russell won’t be taking a crack at it himself, he will have input on the screenplay.

Spanning 21 years over two separate tenures as mayor, Cianci is the longest-serving mayor of Providence. He first held office from 1974 to 1984, having to resign following pleading guilty to assaulting a man whom he claimed was having an affair with his wife. Following a stint as a talk radio host, he ran for mayor again and won in 1991 on a platform of anti-corruption. Ironically, he had to resign in 2002 following a conviction of racketeering conspiracy. He served four years in a federal prision.

This is not the first time that a movie about Cianci has been proposed. Another version of his tale was attempted back in 2008 and even had the likes of David Mamet doing the screenplay and Oliver Platt signed to the lead. but it never got out of development.

Russell seems to be developing an interest in political corruption in the 1970s and 80s, as he has already signed on to direct American Bullshit, a 2010 Black List script about the Abscam scandal.

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Warners Takes On Hugh Hefner Biopic

Posted on 06 March 2012 by Rich Drees

Following several years of development at Universal, the proposed Hugh Hefner biopic Playboy, has moved studios. Warner Brothers has picked up the project after it has failed to get a greenlight at Universal. With the move comes Jerry Weintraub’s attachment to the project as a producer.

The film had been on the boards at Universal since at least 2005, when Scott Silver first drafted a screenplay. During that time, Brett Ratnerhad been attached to direct and the likes of Hugh Jackman and Robert Downey Jr were both touted as being considered to play the magazine publisher who served as one of the architects of the sexual revolution of the last half of the 20th century.

Weintraub seems like a good fit for this project. His resume stretches all the way back to working was a promoter for both Sinatra and Elvis in the 1960s, the time period when Playboy was exploding on to the national scene. He also oversaw Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven remake and its two sequels, all of which had a cool 60s vibe to them.

If you’re wondering why anyone should be interested in biopic on Hugh Hefner’s life, I would direct them to the documentary Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel. The film charts the rise of the magazine empire and how he used that as a pulpit to champion not only the sexual revolution but to fight for civil rights and First Amendment issues.

Deadline is the first to report the move of the film over to Warners and they also reported on a rumor that Harry Potter scripter Steve Kloves has been approached to take over writing chores though Weintraub denied the story.

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Amanda Seyfried Lands Lead In Linda Lovelace Bio-Pic

Posted on 02 November 2011 by Rich Drees

Amanda Seyfried has landed the lead in directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s bio-pic of porn star Linda Lovelace, titled simply Lovelace. Seyfried will star opposite Peter Sarsgaard who is in negotiations to play Lovelace’s husband Chuck Traynor. Previously, Olivia Wilde had been reportedly approached to play the role.

Lovelace‘s script is by Andy Belling and W. Merritt Johnson and is based on Eric Danville’s book The Complete Linda Lovelace. Filming is expected to begin in January.

At the not-so-subtle urging of Traynor, Lovelace first starred in a series of pornographic short films before starring in the landmark porn film Deep Throat. The film proved to be an unexpected hit and launched the short-lived porn chic movement when it became fashionable for couples to attend softcore porn films like Behind The Green Door, Debbie Does Dallas and The Devil In Miss Jones. Even celebrities like Johnny Carson, Jack Nicholson and Barbara Waters have admitted to attending films during this time.

Lovelace would later leave her porn career behind and ultimately became an outspoken opponent of the porn industry. Needless to say, there’s a lot of intense drama from which a bio-pic can be constructed. Previously, the 70s porn chic era was mined for material before in Boogie Nights and Lovelace’s story was told in the documentary Inside Deep Throat.

Lovelace is one of two biopics currently in development. The other, Inferno: A Linda Lovelace Story is set to be directed by Matthew Wilder and star Malin Akerman, taking over the role after Lindsay Lohan had been fired from the project. It was originally supposed to shoot earlier this year, but the project appears to currently be in limbo.

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New Belushi Biopic In The Works

Posted on 12 August 2010 by Rich Drees

Bob Woodward’s biography of the late comic actor John Belushi, Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi was almost universally reviled upon its release in 1984, just two years after the comic actor’s death at age 33. That didn’t stop a film adaptation, with title shortened down to just Wired, coming out in 1989, though that was equally reviled.

But with Woodward’s book long out of print and Wired never even making it to DVD, perhaps the time has come for someone to do a more – Shall we say fact-based? – look at the life of the man who brought us Samurai’s in the workplace and the joys of collegiate food fights and introduced a new generation to the blues. Hangover director Todd Phillips seems to think so, as he is teaming with writer Steven Conrad to develop a new Belushi biopic.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Phillips is only signed to produce a potential film, not direct, though directing may not be entirely out of the picture. Belushi’s widow, Judith Belushi Pisano, will be serving as an executive producer, so don’t expect the backlash for this project that Woodward’s book and subsequent film adaptation received.

Of course, even though the ink on the deal for rights to Belushi’s life story hasn’t dried yet, people have already begun speculating on who would be a good casting choice to play the comic. Not surprisingly, Zach Galifianakis’ name has been floated, based in part on that actor’s recent collaboration with Phillips on The Hangover. I don’t think he would be a good choice though, as I haven’t really seen him deliver any kind of range in his film appearances, certainly not what would be needed to bring Belushi to life on the screen. Jonah Hill’s name has also been floated, but I’m not sure he can bring the manic energy that fueled so much of Belushi’s comedy.

Personally, I would think that Artie Lange would make a pretty good cinematic Belushi. Although his own career has never hit the heights that Belushi’s did, Lange’s own path mirrors Belushi’s in several respects. They both were touted as breakout stars when the sketch comedy shows they appeared on premiered. While Belushi would parlay his Saturday Night Live popularity into a short lived movie career, Lange’s substance abuse problems caused him to be dropped from Mad TV after only a year and a half. But Lange’s ongoing battles with drugs could provide him insight on Belushi’s own struggles.

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Rush Limbaugh Bio-Pic In Works

Posted on 04 June 2010 by Rich Drees

He’s certainly a controversial figure who has people on both ends of the political spectrum listening, but are the movies ready for Rush Limbaugh? We just may find out, as writer/producer James Sclafani is currently shopping a bio-pic script based on the commentator’s life around Hollywood right now.

Deadline is reporting Sclafani describing the script as “a close cousin to the Oliver Stone-directed George W. Bush feature W, in that he tries to get beneath the surface politics and controversies and down to the ambition and demons that drove Limbaugh’s success.”

Based on New York journalist Paul Colford’s book The Rush Limbaugh Story: Talent On Loan From God, the proposed film will include a warts and all look at the commentator, including his 4-F draft status during Vietnam and how his anti-drug diatribes were contradicted by the revelation of his addiction to illegal painkillers.

As Sclafani is quoted –

This is Citizen Kane meets Private Parts, where you have a man who always had trouble relating to people in the outside world, but does it effortlessly in the booth. There’s this anecdote about a game of spin the bottle in high school. The bottle pointed at him, and the pretty girl who was supposed to kiss him ran away, and that stayed with him. When he came up in radio, he was culturally opposed to everything happening in the 60s and 70s, and all this left him with something to prove. He is an underdog, and became an extremely determined person with something to prove.

I think as a Howard Stern fan, I take exception to the Private Parts comparison in that Stern has often used his personal life as gist for the mill of his show, where Limbaugh seems to shy away from discussing the more controversial, and some would argue more interesting, aspects of his personal life on the air. Although Limbaugh did not actively oppose the writing of Colford’s book – it contains material gleaned from interviews with his mother, brother and ex-wives – it is not known yet what his reaction will be to the proposed film. Though I don’t think that Sclafani comparing the film to Oliver Stone’s W is really going to endear Limbaugh much to the project.

As to who could play Limbaugh? As an outspoken Hollywood conservative, Kelsey Grammer springs to mind. The Frasier star is certainly no stranger to acting in a radio broadcast booth. But if the script paints a negative picture of the broadcaster, I think that Grammer would decline.

I have to admit that this is a hard sell for me, and not just because of my own feelings about Limbaugh and his contributions to the country’s political dialogue. As we’ve seen over and over again in the past several years, politically-themed films have not done well at the box office, no matter where on the political spectrum they landed. If Limbaugh decides that the film is a less-than-flattering portrayal, he will have months before its release to rail against it and his listeners will stay away in droves. Would liberals want to see a film that would reinforce why they don’t like Limbaugh? Conversely, liberals would certainly pass on seeing the film if it were a love letter to Limbaugh and I don’t think that the Limbaugh-faithful would be enough to make the film big at the box office.

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John Landis Lining Up William Gaines Bio-Pic

Posted on 16 May 2010 by Rich Drees

Director John Landis is currently lining up financing for his next film a bio-pic about EC Comics publisher William Gaines. Entitled Ghoulishly Yours, William Gaines, the film will tells Gaines’ rise as publisher of such horror comics as Tales From The Crypt and Vault Of Horror to his appearance before the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency in 1954 that hoped to link juvenile crime to comic books to him getting his revenge on uptight society by founding the satirical Mad Magazine.

From what I know of Gaines, he certainly strikes me as a character with a life rich in material for a bio-pic. Gaines certainly didn’t win himself any fans when he answered matter-of-factly and without kowtowing to the committee. (You can read a transcript of his testimony here.) In the backlash that followed, Gaines saw his company’s line of comics specifically targeted by industry self-regulation designed to put him out of business. He would get the last laugh though, when he retooled his humor comic Mad into a magazine in 1955 to avoid the restrictions of the newly created Comics Code Authority and it would go on to be one of t he most successful magazines of its type for decades.

I have to admit that I see Landis’s interest in the project. Like Gaines, Landis has dabbled in both horror and humor, creating classics that are still enjoyed today. And if you’ve ever read any of the old EC horror comics, you may detect a trace of black comedy that obviously informs Landis’s An American Werewolf In London.

Via Deadline.

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HOWL Directors’ Next Biopic Tackles Linda Lovelace

Posted on 25 January 2010 by Rich Drees

Even while their debut feature Howl, a biopic of beat poet Allen Ginsberg, is unspooling at the Sundance Film Festival this week, directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman have already lined up their next project – a biopic of 70s porn icon Linda Lovelace.

Based on Eric Danville’s book The Complete Linda Lovelace, the film will take a look at Lovelace’s life from her rise as a porn star to her later work as an anti-porn activist. Lovelace’s story has already been examined in the critically lauded 2005 documentary Inside Deep Throat.

There have been previous attempts to bring Lovelace’s story to the screen with both Courtney Love and Anna Faris attached to star. No cast has been attached yet to this latest attempt.

Deep Throat is a landmark pornographic film in that it launched the brief “porno chic” movement in the early `70s, where it became fashionable for couples to attend softcore porn films like Behind The Green Door, Debbie Does Dallas and The Devil In Miss Jones. Even celebrities like Johnny Carson, Jack Nicholson and Barbara Waters have admitted to attending films during this time. Paul Thomas Anderson used the period as the setting for his 1997 film Boogie Nights.

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