John Belushi Biopic Revived With 'Walter Mitty' Writer to Direct (Exclusive)
John Belushi is coming back to life.
A biopic of the great comedian had been set up at Warner Bros. with a script by Steve Conrad and Todd Phillips producing and directing. But the project is now moving forward as an indie. Phillips (The Hangover) has stepped aside and Conrad, whose writing credits include The Weather Man and the upcoming The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, will direct the picture himself.
Conrad already is on the hunt for actors, and according to sources, he has met with Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild) and Adam Devine (Comedy Central’s Workaholics) to play Belushi. Joaquin Phoenix's name also has surfaced in connection with the role.
Nelson Franklin, who has done stints on Veep and New Girl, is among those whom the director has met to play Dan Aykroyd, one of Belushi’s best friends, with whom the comedian not only starred in Saturday Night Live but also several movies, such as The Blues Brothers and 1941.
Belushi, who also starred in Animal House, is one of those Hollywood icons whose talent and potential were snuffed out at a fairly young age. The comedian famously died at the age of 33 from a drug overdose at the Chateau Marmont in 1982. Insiders say the biopic 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.
This isn’t the first attempt to bring Belushi’s life to the screen. Michael Chiklis portrayed him in the 1989 adaptation of the Bob Woodward book Wired, which reportedly was boycotted by Belushi's friends and family.
This project, however, is promising to be different: Belushi’s widow, Judy Belushi Pisano, is one of the producers and Aykroyd is on board as an executive producer.
Alexandra Milchan, who is executive producing The Wolf of Wall Street, and Bonnie Timmermann of the production shingle Emjag, have been steering the project as producers, as has Scott Lambert of the financing and production entity Film 360.
The moviemakers are eyeing a New York shoot in spring 2014.
Conrad is repped by CAA. Aykroyd is repped by CAA and Bloom Hergott.