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Nearly 30 years after his death from a drug overdose John Belushi remains a titanic figure of American comedy, famous for his iconic characters on SNL and in the movies as well as his tragic personal life. His story is pretty much made for the biopic treatment, but except for the unauthorized 1989 effort Wired, which starred Michael Chiklis and which virtually no one saw, no one has been able to pull off both honoring the legendary funnyman and exploring his personal demons.
Todd Phillips might not be the first name you'd think of to tackle the job, but he's apparently the one doing it. According to THR Phillips and screenwriter Steven Conrad are developing a Belushi biopic, having secured the life rights from the actor's estate. Phillips is guaranteed to produce but not necessarily direct, though given how high a profile the film would have it's hard to imagine him handing it off to some less experienced protege. Belushi's widow Judith wrote Belushi: A Biography in 2005, and she'll serve as an executive producer on the project.
THR jumps immediately into casting speculation about their article, pouring cold water on what will probably be the most popular casting suggestion. Yes, Zach Galifianakis would be great for the role, but he's already 40, and Belushi died at age 33. Younger actors mentioned include Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen and Ethan Suplee, but really none of them seem quite right for Belushi's intense, odd energy. This seems like a role perfect for a unknown-- which is basically what Galifianakis was before The Hangover, let's remember-- who can seamlessly work his way into the character.
Phillips obviously has the comedy credentials to replicate Belushi's more famous moments, but a biopic about such a troubled life would involve dramatic elements that would be a serious stretch for the Old School and Hangover director-- if he decides to direct it, of course. With Phillips wrapped up in The Hangover 2 next, it will probably be a while before we see proper progress on this one way or another. Heavyset comedians with Blues Brothers sunglasses, though, probably ought to prepare their audition tapes just in case.