News broke last month that Todd Phillips was developing a John Belushi biopic — the latest in a long string of efforts to thrust the "Saturday Night Live" funnyman's life in front of the camera — and the "Hangover" director was anything but pleased.
"That's something that gets released by some agent of somebody and then you get asked questions about it," Phillips told MTV News, in what we believe are his first public comments about the project. "It's in its very nascent stages." But ever the good sport, Phillips expanded on what has been reported in the trades.
The biopic will likely not have the easily digestible character arc that we've seen in recent Oscar-bait biopics and the man who eventually plays Belushi could be either a household name or an unknown actor.
"Our goal is not to do a traditional biopic approach with it that people expect, whether you’re talking about 'Walk the Line' or 'Ray.' All good movies, but our goal is not to make that typical biopic," Phillips explained. "We want to make a movie that, if John Belushi saw it, he would be happy that it captured his spirit. Sometimes I feel that they don’t entirely capture the spirit of the person they're about. Our goal is to capture the spirit of Belushi, not necessarily make a straight-ahead biopic."
At the moment, Steve Conrad ("The Pursuit of Happyness") is still working on a story treatment with Phillips and hasn't even begun work on the actual script. As Phillips puts it, "Steve Conrad, who's a f--king brilliant writer, is working on a story for it."
Now, it's all well and good to assert that you're not going make a traditional biopic, but what exactly does that mean? Perhaps a more compressed timeline, one that spans years or even months rather then decades?
"It could mean that," he said. "There are a lot of ways to interpret it. One of the reasons I'm being a bit vague is because we haven't nailed it yet. It's in early stages. I'm really talking about the very television-narrative approach that a lot of biopics take. We don't want to do that. We're trying to take a very renegade approach to who I think was one of the most renegade comedy actors of all time."
And just who might play that renegade? A bunch of names have been floated in the press — including Jack Black, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen and Zach Galifianakis, one of Phillips' frequent collaborators — but at this point it's simply too early in the process for Phillips to speculate.
"It's about nailing the script down at this point," he said. "If it's a new face or if it's someone people are familiar with, we haven't figured that out yet. It's not even so much about nailing down the script as the renegade approach to a renegade actor."