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It's been three long years, but the long-gestating John Belushi biopic is no longer in the hands of director Todd Phillips, and will be moving forward without him. Not that I have a strong distaste for Phillips, but I don’t think anyone who directed Starsky & Hutch and the Hangover series should be the guy telling a story about one of the most iconic comic performers in modern history. Taking over the reins is Steve Conrad, who also wrote the untitled project’s screenplay. He’s nowhere near as accomplished a director as Phillips, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Conrad’s main claim to fame behind the camera was 2008’s workplace comedy The Promotion with John C. Reilly and Seann William Scott. While that’s hardly worth judging him for, he also wrote the screenplay for Ben Stiller’s upcoming comedic drama The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and the currently filming Vince Vaughn comedy Business Trip. He’s also has screenplays for 2005’s The Weather Man and 2006’s The Pursuit of Happyness on his resume, so it’s clear he’s adept in telling stories both humorous and emotional. And that’s Belushi’s life in a nutshell.
THR reports Conrad has already got his eye on a surprising handful of actors to lead the film, having met with Emile Hirsch, last seen in this year’s Prince Avalanche, and Adam Devine, the completely oblivious Adam DeMamp on Comedy Central’s Workaholics. Another name that’s come up in conversation for the part? Joaquin Phoenix. I would love to see Devine kill this role, but I have no idea how dramatic an occasion his talents can rise to. Otherwise, I’m only mildly interested in seeing Phoenix or Hirsch land it. Can you imagine either of those guys genuinely trying to pull off being Jake Blues, even for a single sequence?
Additionally, Conrad has met with Nelson Franklin, most recognizable from the series Traffic Light, Veep and New Girl, to play Belushi’s friend and frequent co-star Dan Aykroyd. I’m not totally against this idea, though it would take some getting used to. Incidentally, Aykroyd is serving as an executive producer, while Belushi’s widow Judy Belushi Pisano will also be producing.
THR says the film “hopes to tell the story of a man that embodied both the glory and the tragedy of the American dream as it focuses on Belushi at the height of his fame.” It seems like all Belushi knew was the height of fame, as his SNL years gave way to breakout roles in films like Animal House and The Blues Brothers before his untimely drug overdose in 1982, at just 33 years of age.
I know this flick is going to get a little depressing but I hope it’s well documented how funny Belushi could be. Such as in the clip below, in which he and Aykroyd take Brian Wilson out surfing.