New 'Fletch' Star Jon Hamm Has No Plans to Imitate Chevy Chase

Jon Hamm -2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Part

Jon Hamm had never experienced a morning like the one he woke up to July 15 when news broke he would be producing and starring in Confess, Fletch, an adaptation of one of Gregory Mcdonald’s Fletch mystery novels, stepping into a character made famous on the big screen by comedy legend Chevy Chase.

"I've never woken up to, like, 50 texts before,” Hamm tells The Hollywood Reporter during a conversation about a St. Louis Actors Studio fundraiser he’s supporting to aid the Small Professional Theater Sustainment Fund. (Those who donate have a chance to win a Zoom hangout with Hamm, Sterling K. Brown, Beau Willimon, Neil LaBute and others.)

After shaking off the suspicion that somebody had passed away — “fortunately, no one did” — Hamm was happy to see how far, wide and well-received the Fletch news was. “I got messages from friends on the St. Louis Cardinals and [hockey team] the Blues, from heads of studios. It was just such an outpouring of people saying, ‘Oh, I can't wait.'”

But those who are expecting Hamm to do his best Chase impression should reconsider because that’s not why he signed on. “No one can touch Chevy's portrayal of that character,” he explains of Irwin Maurice Fletcher, the investigative journalist at the center of nine Mcdonald novels published from 1974 to 1986. Hamm says he read them all when he was a kid after seeing Chase topline the 1985 film as a wise-cracking version of the character.

“[The books are] all really funny. It was my first kind of lesson in how people adapt characters for the screen,” he continues. “The character in the book's a lot different than Chevy's portrayal, and so when Bill Block at Miramax came to me and said, ‘You know, we own this and we think you'd be a good fit,’ I agreed, but I don’t want to imitate Chevy. I’m not interested in that and I don’t think anybody else would be. We already have that version, so maybe there’s a way to get a version that’s more true to life for the book, more intellectual and a little more live in its sensibility.”

Filmmaker Greg Mottola, the Superbad director with whom Hamm worked on Keeping Up With the Joneses, will direct from a script by Lethal Weapon consulting producer Zev Borow. “Greg has such a deft hand with comedy and is so smart and such a great filmmaker. I literally was just on the phone with, not to name drop, but Tom Cruise called me last night or yesterday because I had just seen a cut of [Top Gun: Maverick], and we were talking and he's like, 'By the way, I can't wait to see Fletch.' I'm like, 'What?! OK, we have to get this thing together.'"

A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.