Late ‘SNL‘ Stalwart Phil Hartman to Receive Biopic Courtesy of Jason Priestley
The annals of Saturday Night Live history have no shortage of tragedy, from assorted drug-related deaths (we’ll never forget you, John Belushi) to the cruel hands of fate extending to seize others before their time (you too, Gilda Radner). But among the most heartbreaking was the sad loss of Phil Hartman, an eight-season veteran who kept the show riotous, relevant, and ridiculous during the late ’80s and early ’90s. An illustrious career came to a terribly premature close when Hartman’s wife, Brynn Omdahl, shot him in the head during a coke bender and then turned the gun on herself before she could be apprehended by the police. Hartman had been responsible for so much joy and laughter over the years, both in his capacity as SNL’s resident Bill Clinton, as the co-creator of the Pee-wee Herman character and a writer of the cult classic Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, and as a regular voice actor on The Simpsons. But his death brought a happy career to a most miserable end.
The entire heartrending Hartman saga will gain new life on the silver screen via a biopic to be directed by Jason Priestley, reports Variety. Noted character actor Daran Norris will get a chance to show his leading-man skills as the late comedian and actor, walking audiences through the highs and lows of the complex figure’s life. Green director Priestley first met Hartman while hosting SNL in 1992, and claims to have kept in touch with Hartman up until the man’s death in 1998. Priestley earned the gig on the merit of his 2013 debut feature Cas and Dylan, an idiosyncratic indie picture about a road trip taken by odd couple Tatiana Maslany and Richard Dreyfuss.
Comedian biopics can be tricky, and lend themselves to schematic cliché. The gold standard is Bob Fosse’s Lenny, which cast Dustin Hoffman as incendiary comic Lenny Bruce. The film works not because Bruce’s life was so extraordinary, though it was, but because Fosse himself had flair and vision as a filmmaker. If Priestley intends on doing his subject justice, he’ll have to do more than simply relay the story. He’s got to bring it to life.