Over 30 years after his untimely death, John Belushi’s story will be committed to screen for the first time… if you don’t count that horrid adaptation of Wired starring Michael Chiklis. Then again, who does?
A second stab at the Belushi biopic has been in the works for several years. Initially, that version was under The Hangover trilogy director Todd Phillips with a script written by Steven Conrad (The Pursuit of Happyness, The Weather Man, and the upcoming Secret Life of Walter Mitty). Now, Phillips has stepped out of the production and Conrad is stepping in to direct the film. This will be Conrad’s second feature after 2008’s The Promotion, which he also wrote.
In terms of onscreen talent, sources say that Conrad has spoken with actors like Emile Hirsch (Milk, Killer Joe), Adam Devine (Workaholics, Pitch Perfect) and Joaquin Phoenix for the part of Belushi and Nelson Franklin (New Girl, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) for the part of Dan Aykroyd, Belushi’s friend and frequent co-star in projects like Saturday Night Live, 1941 and Blues Brothers. The real life Aykroyd, along with John’s widow Judy Belushi Pisano, will produce the film.
This is another troubling project. Sure, I do love John Belushi. Who doesn’t? The man’s life, while short, was full of ground breaking work and tragic elements that could make for a phenomenal biopic. I can still remember reading Bob Woodward’s book Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi as a high schooler and being intrigued by all the crazy stories involving Belushi, paritculalry the one that opens the book where Blues Brothers director John Landis tries to get a coked out John on set.
However, with Aykroyd and Belushi’s widow producing, it seems unlikely that the more harsh aspects of his life will be quite as interesting, as both were quite vocal about their issues with Woodward’s work on Wired. Plus, Steven Conrad’s work in previous films hasn’t impressed me that much, from the very bland Pursuit of Happyness to the infuriatingly insufferable Weather Man. I’m not saying that I want a sensationalized look at the comedic legend, but skimping on the crazed nature of his last few years would be a disservice to the potential power of Belushi’s tragic end and it seems like the people behind the project might end up doing this, much in the same way that the surviving members of Queen are supposedly doing with the upcoming Freddie Mercury biopic.
The biggest point of interest for me is the casting aspect. While some of the choices up here may raise eyebrows due to their lack of the heft that helped identify Belushi’s persona, but the performers supposedly in contention have shown to be quite dedicated to their roles. The one that interests me most is Emile Hirsch, who throws himself into roles like Into the Wild and has the same facial structure that made people interested in Jack Black for the role during the first production.
So, should these production go on with the crew involved or should they just leave the samurai robe on the rack backstage at 30 Rockefeller Plaza? Post your comments below!