Good News or Bad News? No Idea

Bill Hicks

Did you ever get a bit of news that got you all excited and happy? And then you learned more about it and wondered if that was the appropriate reaction or not?

That’s kind of how I felt when I learned that a major Hollywood figure is backing a movie on the life of Bill Hicks — one of my personal comic heroes, a legendarily angry and ascerbic performer who died of cancer in 1994 at the too-young age of 32.

While he never broke out into the mainstream in his short life, his take-no-prisoners approach to comedy was hugely influential among other performers and inspired a host of others who went on to fame and fortune. As an example, here’s a famous bit of his, about marketing:

And here’s another one, this about how not everything about drugs is bad:

So when I heard that there might be a Bill Hicks biopic in the works, I practically jumped for joy.

And then I found out who the “major Hollywood figure” is who is behind the project, and who would presumably star in it — Russell Crowe:

RUSSELL Crowe is looking forward to bonus time in Australia after the postponement of filming for his next project, Nottingham…

“I have another project based on the life of comedian Bill Hicks, which is going from treatment to draft stage with Kiwi writer Mark Staufer.”

It is understood he is considering playing the main role of Hicks — a controversial and brilliant American comedian who battled drug and alcohol abuse before dying from cancer at 32.

Dear God. Russell Crowe as Bill Hicks? It’s hard to wrap your head around, but the comedy blog Dead Frog is cautiously optimistic:

My first thought, and perhaps yours as well, when I heard this was “Hmm. Can I think of a role where I thought Crowe was particularly funny?”

Nope. As always, I can see that as both an advantage and a disadvantage. Obviously we have no idea if portraying someone as darkly funny as Hicks is in Crowe’s wheelhouse but if it is, what an explosive and enjoyable surprise it’ll be. Another advantage, Hicks, though a funny man, wasn’t a clown. He’s a serious figure in comedy and probably the kind of comic who’d be a great fit for a more dramatic actor.

But what makes me optimistic is that Crowe and his screenwriters seem to want to work closely with those who knew Hicks best, specifically Hicks’ frequent collaborator Kevin Booth.

New York Magazine is less cheery:

True, Hicks and Crowe both seem to have had an affinity for alcohol and picking fights with strangers, but Hicks might agree that a commercial biopic comes pretty close to “suckin’ Satan’s pecker.”

Adding to the sense that this is a total crapshoot is the fact that the screenwriter Crowe said was working on the script, Mark Staufer, appears to have only one film to his credit — a yet-to-be-released picture entitled Dolce’s Inferno. I’ve told you before about how important the screenwriter is to the quality of a movie, so it doesn’t inspire confidence when you can’t find anything else the guy has written to look at.

How will it turn out? Who knows. I guess we’ll find out if and when it ever hits theaters. I hope it’s good, though — Hicks’ memory deserves nothing less.

P.S. I don’t usually talk about work on this blog, but all next week I’m going to be at the Democratic Convention in Denver, so posting here will be light (not like it hasn’t been light the last couple of weeks anyway, I know). I will be blogging the convention at CtW Connect, so if you want to follow my experiences at the convention, that’s the place to be next week.