Nick Offerman to Rule 'Confederacy of Dunces'

10:10 AM PST 04/04/2014 by David Rooney
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Nick Offerman

The "Parks and Recreation" star will play New Orleans pariah Ignatius J. Reilly in an industry-only workshop reading of Jeffrey Hatcher's stage adaptation, which is aiming for Broadway.

NEW YORK -- The decades-long struggle to turn A Confederacy of Dunces into a movie may have sputtered to an indefinite halt, but plans are moving ahead to bring the beloved book to the stage.

In an industry-only reading of the project scheduled for April 28 at Pearl Studios in New York, Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) has signed on to play Ignatius J. Reilly, the pariah who terrorizes New Orleans in John Kennedy Toole's Pulitzer Prize-winning cult novel.

A picaresque comic odyssey about an overweight, arrogant misfit at large in the colorful French Quarter of New Orleans in 1963, the book was written in the early '60s but published posthumously by LSU Press in 1980, 11 years after the author's suicide. It went on to become a major international best-seller.

Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher penned the stage adaptation, which David Esbjornson will direct. Cast for the reading also includes Danielle Skraastad, Will Jackson Harper, Marylouise Burke, Lea DeLaria, Kate Rockwell and David Turner.

Producers Bob Guza and John Hardy of Shelton Street have announced that the reading is a step toward taking the play to Broadway.

The book bumped around in development hell for decades as a screen adaptation, with various directors, writers and producers attached at different times, including David Gordon Green, Steven Soderbergh, Scott Kramer, Drew Barrymore, Nancy Juvonen and Scott Rudin. The rights bounced among Paramount, Miramax and other companies.

While Philip Seymour Hoffman had long been at the center of discussions to play Ignatius onscreen, Green directed a public reading of the project at the 2003 Nantucket Film Festival that starred Will Ferrell in the lead role. That cast also included Paul Rudd, Alan Cumming, Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Johnson, Mos Def, Rosie Perez and Olympia Dukakis.

However, despite what appeared to be renewed momentum at the time, the screen incarnation remained stalled.

Additional casting for the upcoming reading of Hatcher's stage version will be announced soon. Producers have not said whether Offerman is expected to continue with the project should it progress to Broadway.

Offerman begins performances off Broadway on April 13 in the New Group's presentation of Annapurna, starring opposite his wife Megan Mullally in the two-hander by Sharr White.

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