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Bob Dylan has done a lot of things in his life. He’s a prolific songwriter and singer. He’s also published multiple books and gained notice for his paintings. We know he’s into plenty of different types of creativity as an outlet, but it’s still surprising to learn he almost starred in a goofy sort of slapstick comedy on HBO.
It's hard to imagine a world where Dylan is known as a comedian, much less a television actor, but Seinfeld and Entourage writer and Borat director Larry Charles recently told a story about the time he was in this situation with Bob Dylan. Here’s what happened.
“We go into the meeting and Chris Albrecht who was the president of HBO says ‘Bob, oh, so great to meet you, look, look I have the original tickets from Woodstock,’ and Bob goes ‘I didn’t play Woodstock,’ and then he walks over to the other side of the office which has floor to ceiling windows overlooking the city, and he proceeds to have his back turned to us through the entire meeting, he never turns around…Gavin Polone was there, who was my manager at the time, and he was like ‘he’s like a retarded child.’ So I would go well ‘Bob’s going to do this, right Bob?’ and at the end, ironically, despite all the discomfort, they bought the project. They bought the project. We go out to the elevator. We’re all elated… And Bob says, “I don’t want to do it anymore.”
Apparently, Dylan’s a guy that gets really invested in certain ideas. According to the You Made It Weird podcast, while living on a bus on tour in the early 1990s, he got really addicted to Jerry Lewis movies. He was deeply invested in the movies and was excited about starring in a slapstick comedy and wanted to pitch the idea to HBO. This is where Larry Charles came in. Originally, he assumed he would meet with Dylan, but before he knew it, the concept went to pitch and then was bought by the subscription cable network. They spent a ton of time putting together and pitching the story, and then in one fell swoop Dylan quit.
It doesn’t seem like the singer gave up on Charles, however. The two men later produced a movie together called, Masked and Anonymous, which follows an aging rock star who puts on a benefit concert. As Larry Charles notes, he stayed on "the Bob Dylan" train and interesting things happened.
There are actually other components to this story, including the fact that the comedy had surreal components and that Larry Charles wore pajamas to the pitch meeting with HBO while Dylan dressed like a cowboy. It’s a pretty great story, and you can catch it in full over at The Nerdist.