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An intriguing biopic project centering on the great Groucho Marx is reportedly in the works. However, this one won’t be tackled by some dramatic, Oscar-hoarding heavyweight, nor will it be uplifted by the levity of a comedic mastermind. Rather, the film focusing on comedy’s sharp-witted pioneer will be helmed by musician-turned-horror-director Rob Zombie.
According to a report by Deadline, Rob Zombie and Cold Iron Pictures producer, Miranda Bailey, are getting into the Groucho business. The duo have collectively acquired the rights to a book by Steve Stoliar called Raised Eyebrows: My Years Inside Groucho’s House, which documents some rather bizarre tales from the final years of the comic legend, who passed away in 1977. In an oddly ambitious move, Zombie himself will branch out beyond his horror repertoire to occupy the director’s chair. According to Zombie:
I have been a huge Groucho Marx fan ever since I was a child and have read countless book on the comic legend, but after reading the book Raised Eyebrows, a totally new perspective on Groucho’s life emerged. I immediately saw this project as Groucho’s Sunset Boulevard and knew I had to bring it to the big screen. It is a sad, funny and very dark tale of a one of Hollywood’s greatest stars final years.
Known for dread-inspiring fare like House of 1000 Corpses, the two Halloween reboots, and next year’s killer-clown-filled 31, Zombie wasn’t exactly a name with which fans of classical comedy were bombarding the property rights holders. With his only directorial effort outside of horror being a single 2010 episode of CSI: Miami, Zombie seems intent on taking a dramatic plunge in a piece that won’t likely include the occasional decapitation and evisceration by masked lunatics. While he had to get out his checkbook to make it happen, it appears that we’ll be getting a look at the great Groucho through the filmmaking lens of the Astro Creep himself.
Raised Eyebrows is a memoir told from the perspective of a young fan who became Marx’s personal assistant and archivist. The book approaches Marx’s personal descent from the perspective of an outside admirer, as Marx is seen still rubbing elbows with screen and stage legends like Bob Hope, George Burns, Jack Lemmon, and Mae West. Yet, the veneer of hero worship chips away, especially when dealings with Erin Fleming, a supposedly mercurial woman in charge of every aspect of the elderly Groucho, become antagonistic.
Set to write the script is Oren Moverman, whose recent work on Love & Mercy, the Beach Boys biopic starring John Cusack and Paul Rudd, was met with wide acclaim. There should be plenty to work with in this case, given the central focus of the book showcases the eccentric habits and tempestuous personality of an elderly Groucho Marx at a point in his life well beyond his glory days as the center of the brilliant Marx Brothers movies, and even beyond his career second wind as host of the television show, You Bet Your Life. It should portray a brilliant, but troubled talent coming to terms with his twilight.
No further details have been revealed as of yet regarding Rob Zombie’s foray into the world of biographical drama.