I'm gonna say this right now: What you're about to read is a wonderful idea. Russell Crowe, whose name was thrown around at one point to play late comedian Bill Hicks in a biopic, has now said he'd rather make his directorial debut with a different actor in the leading role. There's something about that turn of events that seems so classy for some weird reason, but it also makes me think that Crowe is a big Bill Hicks fan, and I love finding out that famous people are fans of things. But back in reality-land: production on this movie could start as soon as early 2013. Casting will certainly be a very interesting process, and that coveted role will most likely go to a British guy. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
A movie about Bill Hicks, who died of pancreatic cancer in 1994 when he was just 32, has been in the works for a while, going back to when Crowe was a contender to play him himself. But now, after the screenplay has gone through the ringer a few times, Crowe is a little old (48) to play Hicks (though he probably would have been great). In a rare display of non-vanity, however, the Oscar-winner still seems very attached to this project (both in the emotional, passionate sense and the professional, official sense) and wants to step behind the camera to see Hicks' story told.
Already the subject of a documentary (American: The Bill Hicks Story), Hicks began his standup career when he was 16 years old and cultivated a huge fan base in the UK in the 1980s and early 1990s. More of a sleeper hit on our side of the pond, he touched on all those subjects you're not supposed to talk about at dinner when your family is around: religion, politics, and drugs, among other things. But he was also whip smart about philosophy, consumer culture, history, and other subjects that you had no idea could be funny. Hicks played on what other people found uncomfortable, as most comedians do. But unlike some less skilled comedians, he was one of the best at executing such material.
Including the time he was censored from Late Show With David Letterman (Letterman pulled Hicks' entire set from the show's final edit in 1993, but invited the comedian's mother to the show in 2009 and played the whole thing on the air as an apology) and the ongoing controversy of whether or not Denis Leary stole material from him, the reason there will be a movie about Bill Hicks is because, as was the case with Andy Kaufman, we didn't have enough time with him on Earth and we want more. And we want something current. Mark Staufer, a longtime friend of Crowe, is writing the screenplay. Crowe is new to directing features, having only ever done short-form material for his wife.
I just like to think about Russell Crowe being a comedy fan. That's cool.
No word on casting for the role of Hicks, but one logical name we can expect to hear is that of UK actor Chas Early, who played Hicks in the 2004 one-man show Bill Hicks: Slight Return. (See? British guy.)
When she isn't nerding out that the holidays are coming, Jamie is a reader at Monday Night Fan Fiction at Fontana's in Chinatown, NYC (next date: TBA, 7:00 PM). All work is original, written by the readers, so if you have a brilliant fanfic idea stuck in your head, send it via Twitter: @jamielikesthis