Biopics

hirsch

When it got reported last week that there was new movement on a potential John Belushi biopic that was going to be put together by writer/director Steve Conrad, everyone’s initial reaction was to brainstorm what working actor would be the best choice to hire to play Belushi. The reports were that Conrad had met with Emile Hirsch and Adam Devine, and that there may have been some interest in Joaquin Phoenix. These were interesting choices that pointed to the fact that Conrad was more interested in hiring an actor who could convey the dramatics of Belushi’s private moments rather than one who could recreate the unique power and physicality of his comic performances, and they gave us a hint as to what to expect in regards to what this Belushi biopic will be all about. The new development in the story is Borys Kit’s report that Emile Hirsch has beat out the competition and has been hired for the Belushi role. On the surface, this seems like a completely fine choice that’s pretty hard to complain about. Hirsch is one of the most talented young actors in the business, he’s shown a good deal of versatility to date, and he’s likely a better choice than going with whatever chubby comedian is currently the most en vogue (Maybe Galifianakis? Could he stop winking long enough to play a role like this?) like most productions would. But once you actually picture him in the part, it starts to become clear that it’s […]

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John McAfee

If you’ve read Joshua Davis’ shocking “Wired” article, “John McAfee’s Last Stand,” which chronicles the strange places anti-virus software creator John McAfee’s life has gone in recent years, then you know that he’s not the sort of person you typically envision when you think of someone who used to program for NASA. Instead what you get is a vision of a tattooed gun nut whose recent life has involved alleged murders, isolated compounds in Belize, police conspiracies, accusations of narcotics trafficking, escapes to Guatemala, fake heart attacks, and an eventual deportation back to the United States. Sounds like an interesting story, right? The kind that could make for a good movie? Yeah, you see where this is going. Variety has learned that Warner Bros. is in final negotiations to acquire the film rights to Davis’ article, and they’ve hired the Crazy, Stupid, Love team of John Requa and Glenn Ficarra to adapt it into a screenplay and direct it as a feature. Seeing as Requa and Ficarra have already done interesting work adapting somebody’s crazy real-life story into a feature film with 2009’s I Love You Phillip Morris, they’re likely to be a good fit to bring to life a character as eccentric and mysterious as McAfee.

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Susan Boyle

The sort of fame that comes from appearing on reality television can be fleeting. Remember Puck, the filthy bike messenger who put his finger in Pedro’s peanut butter on MTV’s The Real World? No? Let’s go with something more recent. How about Richard Hatch, the manipulative nudist from CBS’ Survivor? Still no? Omarosa, that bitch from The Apprentice? William Hung, that Ricky Martin wannabe from American Idol? At one point these people were the darlings of popular culture, and now their names conjure up barely a glimmer of recognition. Hopefully for Fox Searchlight the name Susan Boyle is recent enough that it’s still at the tips of everyone’s brains though, because Deadline Hollywood is reporting that they’ve just signed off on a deal that gives them the rights to her life story. It turns out that, in the time since her revelatory 2009 performance on Britain’s Got Talent, where she taught the world that even people who aren’t 16-year-old girls with hair extensions can sing, Boyle has been spending her time doing things like cutting albums and signing deals to have a stage musical about her life story made.

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Once upon a time, Michael Gates Gill’s memoir, “How Starbucks Saved My Life,” was optioned by Universal to become a film that would be directed by Gus Van Sant and would star Tom Hanks. Chances are, that would have been awesome. It didn’t end up happening though, so get it out of your head now. It’s done. That’s the bad news. The good news is that Deadline has gotten word that The Weinstein Company has just swooped in and gobbled up the rights to the book, which will likely give it a second shot at becoming a film. For those of you not familiar with Gill’s story, you’re probably wondering how exactly Starbucks (yes, we’re talking about the coffee chain here) could have saved someone’s life. It certainly wasn’t through the quality of their over-roasted beans—am I right, hipsters? Ahem. Anyway, “How Starbucks Saved My Life” makes more sense if you hear its full title, “How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else.” It’s Gill’s account of how falling on hard times and actually having to get a job and work for a living gave him a new perspective and generally saved him from a life of behaving like an entitled goon. Suddenly he has to answer to someone who is younger than him, has darker skin, and is equipped with lady parts, he has to actually do manual labor in order to receive a paycheck, and once he gets said check he […]

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Rza Directing

Anyone who spent their teen years driving around in their mother’s hand-me-down car with the windows rolled down and the Wu Tang Clan blaring on the stereo knows that the RZA, the GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, the Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, U-God, and the Masta Killa have a deep, abiding love of kung-fu movies. And, in the years since their musical heyday, RZA has taken this love further by composing the score for modern martial arts movies like Ghost Dog and Kill Bill, by trying his hand at being an actor, and even by becoming a director with his upcoming martial arts epic The Man with the Iron Fists. RZA doesn’t plan on stopping there either, apparently his experience directing a movie was so positive that he’s already lined up two more projects.

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Making a movie about the life of Harry Houdini has been a recent priority of Lionsgate’s Summit for a few good reasons. For one, the famed magician just lived a really interesting life, which would probably make for the rare, non-boring biopic. For another, Houdini is a name that lots of people already recognize, but that hasn’t been the subject of a movie in a while, and studios are always looking for something that has name recognition they can get their hands on. Add that to the fact that there’s a biography out there, by William Kalush and Larry Sloman, called “The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero” that’s very cinematic and pretty much ready-made to be adapted into a film (screenwriter Noah Oppenheim has already done a draft), and putting together a Houdini project seems like something of a no-brainer. But, for some reason (Gary Ross looking at it and eventually passing is probably a contributing factor), Summit has been sitting on this project for a while now without it gaining any real momentum. The good news is, that may soon change, because another notable and talented director is said to be circling the screenplay. According to sources that have spoken to the L.A. Times, Hanna helmer Joe Wright has taken a liking to the script and is currently in negotiations to become attached as director.

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Hitchcock

Whenever an iconic actor takes on an iconic real-life figure as their next role, the film that they do it in tends to be guaranteed a certain amount of hype. Questions of how much they were made to look like them and how much they ended up sounding like them are the first things that cross everyone’s minds, so we all run out and gobble up those initial trailers. That’s likely to be the case for this new trailer for Sacha Gervasi’s Hitchcock, as well, because it features acting legend Anthony Hopkins portraying directing legend Alfred Hitchcock. How is Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock? Is he doing an impression of him, or kind of doing his own thing? Does his jowl makeup look believable? Luckily for us, the answers to all of these questions are contained here in this trailer, so our curiosity can be sated. When Hopkins is in the makeup, yes, he looks quite a bit like Hitchcock. He seems to be mimicking his mannerisms pretty broadly, but there’s also quite a bit of his own voice coming through in his performance. In a movie like this, where one celebrity plays another celebrity, complete with makeup and wardrobe, there’s always the possibility that after a while the whole thing will start to feel like an overly long SNL sketch and get ridiculous, but Hitchcock passes the initial sniff test.

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Richard Linklater and Jack Black

The first time director Richard Linklater used Jack Black as the star of one of his films, the result was the much-loved School of Rock. The second time the duo collaborated, it was on last year’s quirky Bernie, a film that didn’t have the mainstream appeal of School of Rock, but that earned Black quite a bit of critical acclaim for his showing off more range than audiences were used to seeing from him. Not ones to let a good thing end prematurely, Linklater and Black are reportedly planning on working together on a third film, a biopic about a real life professional bowler. At a recent awards season event for Bernie, Black let news of the new film slip when he told the L.A. Times that their new project would be, “about a guy who gives up everything to be a professional bowler.” While Black refused to confirm who exactly this bowler who gave everything away is, The Times has theorized that he’s probably talking about PBA Champion Pete Weber, a figure who – for the bowling world at least – is considered to be pretty controversial.

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Greetings From Tim Buckley Trailer

The story behind now-legendary singer/songwriter Jeff Buckley’s first introduction to the music world is the sort of dramatic, one in a million tale that’s so simultaneously relatable and unbelievable, it seems like somebody should make it into a movie. So somebody made it into a movie. Or, more specifically, Daniel Algrant made it into a movie starring Penn Badgley as Jeff and Ben Rosenfield as his equally notable singer/song writer father, Tim. The story starts with Jeff as an unknown artist with a famous father, a father that he’s estranged from and never properly knew. His world changes, however, when he’s asked to travel from west coast to east in order to perform at a tribute concert for the man. Suddenly the younger Buckley is put in the position of not only having a big opportunity to show off his talents to the world, but also being forced to wrestle with all of his feelings about a man that he never knew and mostly resents. Of course, we all know that the situation ends with Jeff performing at the show and a new star being born, but it’s the drama of the journey to that point that makes this a story interesting enough to make into a movie.

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Michael Shannon in The Iceman

t’s been a big week for Michael Shannon. Just seven days ago his latest film, Premium Rush, hit theaters and earned the man heaps of critical praise for his quirky, Dick Tracy villain performance as a dirty cop; and now the trailer for his latest starring vehicle, The Iceman, has hit the net. This is big news because, oh boy, does this true telling of the life of contract killer Richard Kuklinski look like it’s going to be a doozy. Detailing the life of a hired gun all the way from the late ’60s to the early ’80s, The Iceman doesn’t just give Shannon a chance to do that intense, conflicted, rolling sea of emotions just beneath the surface of his skin thing that he does so well, it also gives him the opportunity to experiment with all sorts of ridiculous facial hair combinations. Oh wait, and who’s that? Why, it’s Captain America himself, Chris Evans, and his sleazy Lemmy beard looks like it wants to get in on the action too.

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Sean Penn and Josh Brolin

Sean Penn is no stranger to sending young men out into nature to do battle with the elements. After all, his most recent directorial effort, Into the Wild, saw Emile Hirsch playing a real-life character who did just that. And it doesn’t seem like Penn has gotten those man vs. nature themes out of his head just yet, because Variety is reporting that his next project will be sticking to very similar subject matter. The film is called Crazy for the Storm, and it tells the true story of Norman Ollestad, an 11-year-old boy who survived a plane crash only to find himself stranded and alone in a mountain wilderness. Given that Will Fetters adapted the screenplay for this project from Ollestad’s memoirs, it’s no real spoiler to say that the boy survived the experience, and that’s said to be largely thanks to survival skills he was taught by his father, a former F.B.I. agent who apparently had his kid doing way crazy stuff at an early age (best dad ever).

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As those who follow the film industry closely might already know, Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon released a passion project earlier this summer that went by the name of The Avengers. It was a fairly popular film, playing in over four thousand theaters, breaking a bunch of box office records, and making $1,461,891,916 worldwide to date. That’s not to say that it was a complete success though. It still hasn’t broken every box office record, it still hasn’t made all of the money…and now it may never get to because of a cocky young upstart named Mike Birbiglia. You may have heard of Birbiglia before: he’s a stand-up comedian, a writer, and a radio personality who has turned his memoirs entitled “Sleepwalk With Me” into a modestly budgeted indie film that will be given a limited release with minimal promotion. Enough promotion that it’s likely to ruin Whedon’s chances at being declared King of Hollywood though. As the Avengers director explains in this video, Sleepwalk With Me was only supposed to open on thirty-some screens originally, but due to a dogged campaign by Birbiglia and his dangerous, cult-like following, it’s now set to open on over 80. Simply put, this will help push The Avengers out of some of the 500 or so theaters it’s still playing in, and effectively take food out of the mouths of Joss Whedon’s (myriad) children.

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Eric Bana in Lone Survivor

Though there weren’t many people out there who appreciated Peter Berg’s recent board game cash-in, Battleship, he was generally a well-regarded director before he laid that one on us, so there should still be interest out there for what he’s doing next. Especially since he’s already assembled a fairly impressive cast for it. The film is called Lone Survivor, and it tells the true story of a Navy SEAL mission in Afghanistan gone bad, as adapted from the biography of soldier Marcus Luttrell. While on a reconnaissance mission along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, Luttrell and three of his fellow SEALs made a fatal error. After showing a bit of compassion and letting an old man and three boys who came upon them walk away, they soon became victims of a Taliban ambush, which took the lives of every member of the team other than Luttrell, the titular lone survivor.

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Okay, so maybe screen legend is pushing it, but it’s kind of hard not to get excited about the career resurgence that Matthew McConaughey has experienced in the past year. Remember all those years he was doing lame romantic comedies and cashing checks? Well, forget them, because hopefully that’s all over. This year the man famous for his bongos, his abs, and his southern drawl has already shown up in worthwhile projects like Bernie, Magic Mike, and Killer Joe, and now Variety has word that he’s keeping that momentum going by being the latest to sign on for Martin Scorsese’s next, The Wolf of Wall Street. You remember what The Wolf of Wall Street is, right? We’ve only written up about a thousand casting announcements for it so far. It’s Scorsese’s look at the real life adventures of decadent day trader Jordan Belfort, and all of the drug and adrenaline fueled shenanigans he got himself into back in the ’80s (you know, before he got caught being involved in illegal trading and money laundering and had to go to jail).

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If you thought that the last scene in Kathryn Bigelow’s legendary bank-robbing-surfers movie Point Break was the coolest presentation of big wave riding that was ever going to be put on film…well, you were probably right. But just because it was the best word doesn’t mean it has to be the last word. So now we’ve got Chasing Mavericks, a Gerard Butler- and Jonny Weston-starring film that tells the true story of how surfing legend Jay Moriarty learned to ride a board on top of ridiculously big walls of water. Like most true stories about an underdog chasing an impossible dream, Chasing Mavericks looks pretty cheesy. All of the standard tropes are there: the tenuous relationship with an initially gruff mentor, the training montage sequences, the budding romance with an energetic blonde. But, before you dismiss this movie outright and go watch The Karate Kid for the thousandth time, note that there are a couple reasons why you might want to give it a chance.

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Though his acting career is seemingly still going along swimmingly (he’s got roles in The Man With the Iron Fists, Les Misérables, Man of Steel, and Noah coming up), Australian (by way of New Zealand) superstar Russell Crowe has decided that the time has finally come for him to dip his toe into the world of directing. Which makes sense, the guy has his own band, did you really think it was going to be long before he started making his own movies? So, what’s the project that’s gotten Crowe’s attention and inspired him to make his debut in the director’s chair? A script about the life of legendary standup comedian Bill Hicks. An exploration of the comedian’s fast-burn life and career already came to the big screen in the form of a 2009 documentary called American: The Bill Hicks Story, but Crowe’s interest in Hicks stems from a treatment he heard all the way back in 2008 by his former classmate and screenwriter Mark Staufer.

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Whether it’s been as a comedian, writer, storyteller, or frequent contributor to This American Life, Mike Birbiglia has made a living just talking about his experiences and getting audiences to relate to his day to day struggles. The latest development in his career progression is this new film, Sleepwalk With Me, a tale of struggling in a new career, dealing with societal pressure to start a family, and living through an insane medical condition that makes you do crazy shit while you’re asleep; all material ripped straight out of Birbiglia’s real life experiences. Sleepwalk With Me started as a stage show called “Sleepwalk With Me Live,” which later got recorded and became a best-selling comedy album of the same name. The next step was to turn the stories into written memoirs, so “Sleepwalk With Me & Other Painfully True Stories” was born, and went on to become a New York Times Bestseller. This new film adaptation of the material features Birbiglia acting in the starring role, co-directing with Seth Barrish, and co-writing with a handful of collaborators. That’s a lot of Mike Birbiglia.

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Janis Joplin

Producer Peter Newman has wanted to get a Janis Joplin biopic together for quite a while now. For years it was at the top of his to-do list, but despite his efforts, actresses like Pink and Zooey Deschanel floated in and out of the project without it ever actually getting made. Things even got so bad that Newman gave up on the film for a while and pursued a career in academia; but two big developments have pulled him back into the world of film production and put this Joplin project back into development.

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We haven’t reported much on the progress of Raging Bull II, mostly because making a sequel to something as beloved as Raging Bull thirty-some years after the release of the original and without the involvement of any of the iconic names who made the first so beloved is a dumb idea unworthy of much attention; but let’s do a quick rundown of the particulars anyway. The subject of the first film, Jake LaMotta, sold the rights to the sequel of his life story to a company called RB II Productions. This has led to co-writer/director Martin Guigui putting a film together that’s going to work as part prequel and part sequel to Martin Scorsese’s 1980 film, Raging Bull. This new film, which stars William Forsythe as LaMotta, will focus on the period of the boxer’s life before Raging Bull took place, as well as on what happened to him after. It’s currently filming in Los Angeles. For now. The interesting news about this ill-advised and sure-to-be-reviled project is that the studio behind the original film, MGM, is trying to get it shut down. A report from Deadline Coventry says that the studio has filed a complaint against LaMotta and RB II Productions stating that, due to an agreement drawn up in 1976, MGM still has the rights to the boxer’s original memoirs as well as right of first refusal to any “owner-written sequel.” Seeing as LaMotta never took the idea of a sequel to MGM, and RB II Productions has […]

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Jimi Hendrix

There are a lot of things that writer/director John Ridley’s upcoming biopic of rock great Jimi Hendrix, All Is By My Side, has going for it. The most obvious asset being its star, André Benjamin, who has shown potential as an actor, has a ton of experience being a musician, and looks pretty much exactly like Jimi Hendrix once he’s all dressed up in costume and letting his afro roam free. There’s one huge stumbling block that has a lot of people questioning what the point of making this movie is at all though: the Hendrix estate didn’t sign off on letting them use any of the musician’s music in the film. How do you make a movie about Hendrix’s music career without showing him playing any of his music? Rolling Stone has the scoop. Apparently the biggest strategy Ridley and company are employing when it comes to getting around the issue of not being able to use any of Hendrix’s copyrights is that they’re going to focus on an isolated part of the musician’s career, the period where he was just emerging onto the scene in ’66 and ’67. Or, as producer Sean McKittrick puts it, “This is the story of Jimi being discovered as a backup musician and how he went to London and became Jimi Hendrix.” In McKittrick’s opinion, focusing on just the early part of Hendrix’s career is smarter than making a movie that covers his whole life, because, “That would be like making a movie […]

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