Russell Crowe Working on Bill Hicks Biopic

Filed Under Movies, Stand-Up Comedy

The project been out there before, but there’s been some buzz now that Russell Crowe himself said to an Australian paper than he’s working with a writer on a biopic about legendary outlaw comedian Bill Hicks.

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. Here’s a clip from a syndicated radio show hosted by Alex Jones where Kevin talks a bit about the film. The Hicks stuff starts at about two minutes in. (If you’re a Hicks diehard, the metaphorical “burning of Rome” talk that surrounds it may be something you’ll appreciate as well.)

That March of 09 date mentioned in the clip seems a little more unlikely, as Crowe’s next film Nottingham has been delayed in shooting. And of course, still no script.

Crowe must have felt pretty confident about his ability to portray Hicks to actually consider it being the equivalent to a concert film, but fictionalized. I assume that’s what is meant by “performance piece.” I’m glad that they are going a bit more traditional route however - seeing something like that would just make we wonder why they didn’t release an actual Bill Hicks concert film. It’s a approach that rings of (probably mistaken) hubris.

There are some pitfalls to a more traditional take of course… I fear the story would focus far too much on Hicks’ last year of life as he became sick and ultimately died from pancreatic cancer. It’s certainly a big element of his life, but Hicks was not a big walking statement on cancer. I’m not even sure if he ever did any stand-up material on it. (Anyone more versed in Hicks’ oeuvre want to enlighten me?) Any HIcks story should celebrate how he lived, not dwell on his death.

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Comments

Posted by Rebecca O'Malley on 08/20  at  10:18 PM

Fascinating to hear that Crowe fantasizes about portraying Hicks on stage. I knew the man had an angry streak, but I didn’t realize it was quite *that* angry.

I didn’t realize that the movie plans to focus on performance pieces. Now that I’ve had time to digest that idea, I agree with you: if the movie is going to highlight key performances, then why not just release a Bill Hicks concert film? 

Honestly, Crowe is an amazing talent, but his re-creation can’t best the near perfection of the original.  He’ll drive himself insane trying.

Posted by Layne on 08/21  at  09:22 PM

Just take a look at Crowe’s films where he’s showed an uncanny ability to transform himself for a role:  The Insider, Master and Commander, etc.

The man will not only pull it off, he’ll make it a classic.

Posted by Hicks Insider on 08/26  at  01:33 PM

The Kevin Booth interview contains several inaccuracies and wild speculations.  For the record, Bill’s family have been more involved with the film than Kevin.  The Hicks haven’t been talking about it because they think the filmmakers should be the ones to talk about their film whenever they’re ready to do so.  As for releasing a Bill Hicks concert film, “Revelations” is the closest thing to a concert film that exists and has been available for several years on VHS and DVD (it’s part of the “Bill Hicks Live” DVD).

Posted by DrZibbs on 08/27  at  10:07 AM

I bet he can pull it off.

Posted by Chris Wood on 08/27  at  10:35 AM

Hicks did some stand up about cancer in terms of his smoking - when he did the smoking through the neck routine. I think it’s on the Dangerous CD.

Crowe could be magnificent as Hicks, but if it’s done I just hope they do him justice.

Posted by JackSzwergold on 08/28  at  01:22 AM

This sounds awesome.  Full confession: I’m actually not a Bill Hicks fan.  I know his role in the world of comedy, but his stuff never sank in.  But Russell Crowe can pull this off.  Him and Jim Carrey are completely underrated as far as versatility goes.  The idea he’s being pigeon-holed because of ego is nuts.  Yeah, he had that phone throwing incident, but he was pretty contrite afterwards which is much more than can be said for most others.

I’m quite confident about this stuff working well.  But I will say it might end up being one of those films that makes the bulk of the money off of DVD/downloads/rentals.  I can’t see most of America waiting in line to see a re-enactment of a comedian most people have no relation to.

Posted by Rich on 08/28  at  09:41 AM

I wrote a tune for Bill over a year ago when reading Kevin Booth’s book “Agent of Evolution”.  My wife Gypsy did a cover of it and we did a video too.  Not quite the same approach that Tool has, but the message is still there.  Check it out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NM5PGR0ARQ

Posted by Will Kendrick on 10/21  at  11:28 AM

I think that Crowe will be able to pull it off. It’s kind of funny, I personally have dreamed of starring in a Hicks biopic since i’m already as cynical, been told that i’m hilarious, and I look kind of like him (just need to loose a few pounds) but Crowe would be a good second choice, kidding. Also, if Kinison is a character, I think that Patton Oswalt would do great as him. And the fact that the Hicks’ family and Kevin booth are involved definitally makes this more appealing and I can’t wait to see the trailer.

Posted by Michael on 12/03  at  12:50 AM

Bill never mentioned his own illness on stage (even though he had some small bits on cancer). He performed like usual, touring comedy clubs like a madman. I swear, I get all emotional every time I think about his death, and I had no idea who he was at the time. My number one hero, that man. I wish I could meet everyone who knew him and learn more.

Posted by peter xof on 04/03  at  04:58 AM

Russell is actually a very funny guy.

He can do Bill justice. (And that is no easy task)

Pete

Posted by Matt on 04/15  at  06:09 PM

I know he used to have a bit about how ironic it would be if he ever got cancer, pointing to how proudly he touted his ciggarette smoking.

Posted by R on 02/23  at  04:56 AM

Apart from his numerous bits on lung cancer (resulting from smoking), I was only aware of a single one liner specifically relating to his pancreatic cancer.  It was along the lines of “I’ve got a tumour the size of a baseball and it’s got Pamela’s name written all over it” (Pamela referring to a longtime girlfriend of Hicks).

I like the idea of a Bill Hicks biopic but Crowe does not have that kind of misanthropy and rage in his repetoire.

Posted by Ross on 03/18  at  12:28 PM

What’s the point?  Seriously, what’s the point in some actor playing Bill Hicks?  Bill Hicks played himself extremely well and that’s all we need.  We especially don’t need him being “portrayed” by a wanker like Crowe.

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