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.