Stooges go back to roots with MGM

Peter and Bobby Farrelly penned latest screenplay

It looks like the Three Stooges have finally found their way back home.

MGM, which showcased the comedy trio in shorts and features as early as 1933, is in the process of acquiring the film rights to the Stooges from Warner Bros., which has been developing a feature project for years. The Lion hopes to fast-track the most recent screenplay written by Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly, which provides an origin story of sorts for Moe, Larry and Curly.

The Farrellys are attached to direct. They also will produce along with Bradley Thomas and Charlie Wessler. Earl Benjamin and Robert Benjamin of C3 Entertainment, the executors of the Stooges' estate, will executive produce.

MGM has targeted November 20, 2009, for a pre-Thanksgiving release. Execs Cale Boyter and Luke Ryan will oversee for the studio.

"The Three Stooges are a timeless staple of comedy," said Mary Parent, chairman of MGM's worldwide motion picture group. "And when we heard what the Farrellys had in mind, we knew it was time for Larry, Moe and Curly to return to the big screen."

The Farrellys' screenplay -- described by the filmmakers as "slapstick with heart" -- breaks the feature into four 20-minute shorts, in an approximation of the vaudeville and slapstick pioneers' most common format in the 1920s and '30s. The first episode establishes the bruising, boisterous brothers as 7-year-old castoffs who terrorize the nun-run orphanage that takes them in. Eventually foced to leave, Moe (the hostile leader), Larry (the jokey sidekick) and Curly (the childlike dimwit) try to find a place for themselves in a modern world.

No one is yet attached to star, but over the years thinking has run from total unknowns to unexpected A-list "stunt" casting, with such names as Russell Crowe and Mel Gibson floated for the temper-challenged, bowl-cut Moe.

The Farrellys, repped by CAA, most recently co-wrote and directed a remake of "The Heartbreak Kid."