It is hard to believe that it has been seventeen years since comic actor Phil Hartman was shot to death while he slept by his deranged wife. A bigger than life personality on television and in his film appearances, at the time it was hard to believe that someone with that kind of robust energy could have it snuffed out so cruelly and prematurely.
Variety is reporting that Hartman’s life is going to be the subject of a new biopic, Nice Guy Phil, which is set to be directed by Jason Priestley. Yes, the same Jason Priestley who was a teen heartthrob on the 1990s Beverly Hills 90210.
Priestley is no stranger to being behind the camera. His directorial career stretches all the way back to his days on 90210 where he directed several episodes. His first feature film was the 1999 documentary Barenaked In America where he followed the Canadian pop band Barenaked Ladies on tour. Although his resume is weighted mostly towards television, he directed the comedy Cas & Dylan with Richard Dreyfus, which did the festival circuit last year.
In his eight years as a cast member of Saturday Night Live, Phil Hartman created numerous comic characters like Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer in addition to impersonating a string of real life celebrities including President Bill Clinton, President Ronald Reagan, Ed McMahon, Frank Sinatra, Charlton Heston and Phil Donahue. Following his SNL stint, Hartman co-starred on the sitcom News Radio as blowhard news anchor Bill McNeal as well as contributed voices to numerous characters on the long-running animated series The Simpsons.
Starring in the film will be Daran Norris, the baritone-voiced actor who is perhaps best known for playing the Mars family lawyer on the mystery series Veronica Mars. He has also done voices on a number of cartoons including Fairly Odd Parents. It was this work that helped him land the role.
“I told a friend, who suggested Daran — who is ideal for the part,” Priestley said. “He looks quite a bit like Phil and he’s an expert at voices.”
Priestley is hoping to have Nice Guy Phil in production next summer.