Normally when you her the phrase “TV movie” images of poorly made, poorly funded schlock dance through your head. But when HBO makes a TV movie, what you get is name talent like John Adams’s Kirk Ellis writing the script and Hollywood veteran Barry Levinson sitting in the director’s chair. That’s exactly the case for the upcoming HBO biopic The Day the Laughter Stopped, which will be a look at the life of film star Fatty Arbuckle as based on a book by David A. Yallop.
This one seems like it’s going to follow that classic rise and fall story that many biopics do, as it follows Arbuckle from being one of the most loved screen personalities on the planet, to becoming a pariah after getting accused of the rape and murder of Virginia Rappe. Ellis says of Arbuckle, “He was the biggest and most loved star of the time, bigger than Chaplin, especially with children.” But he then goes on to explain how the accusations against Arbuckle got out of hand and managed to sink his career, even though he was later acquitted of the crimes, “It was the first trial by media of the 20th century … [and] there was a call to clean [Hollywood] up. Arbuckle became the sacrificial lamb. They decided to kiss off his career rather than risk the government coming in.”
Certainly Arbuckle’s life story is filled with enough intrigue to anchor a film, but that movie being successful is going to hinge largely on who you get to play the man. It’s not easy to portray such a unique, iconic figure and have it pass muster with audiences, so great care must be made to find the perfect actor. Of course, the first choice would be Eddie Murphy in white face and a fat suit, but barring that HBO has gone out and got the next best thing: Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet.
Apparently it’s been Stonestreet’s dream to portray Arbuckle his entire career, so much so that he’s been bugging his reps to look into every rumored Arbuckle project since the late 90s. Why is Stonestreet so sweet on the idea of playing a guy named Fatty? I’ll let him explain: “In addition to the fact that I’m from Kansas and he’s from Kansas, I just always found it to be such a fascinating and tragic story. He went from this jolly person who fell down and entertained people into a sexual deviant. It’s a true story people don’t know about, with a twist.”
Apparently Stonestreet was so intent on getting the part he showed up to a meeting with HBO execs in full Fatty makeup and prosthetics. Given how great he is on Modern Family and how much dedication to Sparkle Motion he’s shown in landing this role; I have to say I think he’s the perfect man for the job. [Vulture]