Todd Phillips Producing Biopic of Late Comedian John Belushi
With all the personalities that walk through the revolving doors of the entertainment industry, few have had the talent, charisma and charm that the late John Belushi had. In case you're unaware, the comedian was much more than the literal poster child for college with his Animal House portraits adorning pretty much every college residence somewhere on campus. THR reports that the tragically short life of Belushi is headed towards the big screen courtesy of director Todd Phillips who will be producing a biopic of the comedian written by Steven Conrad (The Pursuit of Happyness). That sounds like a mission from God. Read on!
This isn't the first time a biopic on the late comedian has hit the big screen. Back in 1989 Michael Chiklis (Fantastic Four, "The Shield") played Belushi in an adaptation of the 1985 book Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi, a biography by infamous journalist Bob Woodward which was heavily criticized by Belushi's family and comedic colleagues (the same people who then ended up boycotting the film which eventually fell flat at the box office anyway). Fortunately, this is not the source material for this new biopic.
Instead, the more recent 2005 biography Belushi, formed with the loving hands of widow Judith Belushi Pisano, will act as the source material for the film. With loving memories from friends and colleagues like Dan Aykroyd, the book chronicles the highs and lows of John Belushi from his youngest comedic exploits through his unbelievable star-making success in films like The Blues Brothers and Animal House. Sadly the story doesn't have a happy ending with Belushi dying tragically from a drug overdose. No matter how funny Belushi was in front of the camera, his life was a deteriorating mess that suffered from pressures of success, an addictive personality that led to drug abuse, and expectation from fans to always be the life of the party.
This book captures all of that and is a must read for anyone who was a fan or wants an honest look into the life of a comedian who eventually became crippled by his own success. That may just sound like bullshit to people who don't understand that fame not only comes with wealth and sometime glory, but also a price that no one can ever really afford. When Belushi turned 30 years-old he simultaneously had a #1 movie (Animal House), a #1 TV show (with "SNL") and a #1 music album (Briefcase Full of Blues). How do you top that?
The real question is who will play the charismatic icon that inspired a new kind of comedy and paved the way for today's favorites like Will Ferrell and Seth Rogen. With Phillips seemingly enjoying the hell out of the comedic stylings of Zach Galifianakis, the bearded funnyman (who definitely has a darker dramatic side in him) could be a great choice. Meanwhile THR points out his age could take him out of the running and offers suggestions like Tyler Labine ("Reaper") or Jonah Hill (Superbad, Funny People) who are both excellent choices. I wonder if Bobby Moynihan (currently on "SNL") has the dramatic chops to pull this off or maybe Artie Lang can bring his own struggles into the mix to make for a powerful performance. Or maybe there's some young pudgy comedian out there waiting for this moment to break onto the scene.
This isn't going to be an easy project to put together, and aside from finding someone to fill Belushi's shoes, there's plenty of other familiar names that would need to be cast including Lorne Michaels, Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd. The trade mentions that it's unclear if life rights to some of Belushi's famous counterparts like the ones previously mentioned will be acquired as well, so there might be more hurdles down the road for Phillips as producer. As an avid fan of comedy in general, Belushi has always been a point of interest in my absorption of all things pop culture and I'm wholly interested to see how this comes together. Thoughts?