Okay, I don’t know how true this is, ‘cause I read it on Page Six, but this item about the troubled, long-gestating Dallas movie says that John Travolta is out as J.R. Ewing, to be replaced by… Ben Stiller? According to the article, the filmmakers have abandoned all pretense of turning the long-running TV drama into a big-screen drama and are now going the camp route, trying to make a behind-the-scenes comedy à la Bewitched. (Because that turned out so well.)
As a longtime Dallas fan (yep… so shoot me, like Kristin shot J.R.), this whole scenario fills me with dread and disgust. Whether it’s going to be a comedy (a bad idea… Dallas often had silly plot twists — I’ll never forgive the producers for the whole Bobby-was-in- the-shower-and-the-whole-season-was-a-dream shark jumper — but it was always played straight, never campy like Dynasty) or a drama, the film version will hinge on finding the right J.R. I never warmed to the casting of Travolta; while he can play charismatic Southern womanizing weasels (his Bill Clinton in Primary Colors remains the most unjustly underrated performance of his career), he’s not evil enough to be J.R. So if he’s really off the project, I’m not sorry to see him go, but Ben Stiller? Uh… he can convincingly play a heterosexual male who speaks English, but otherwise, his resemblance to Larry Hagman’s J.R. is nonexistent. Hey, filmmakers, why not cast Will Ferrell? Steve Carell? Eddie Murphy? (Who says J.R. has to be white?) Keira Knightley? (Who says he has to be a man? Or middle-aged? Or American?) None of these choices is any more absurd than Ben Stiller.
Free advice: Either hire Alec Baldwin to play J.R. (he proves every week on 30 Rock that he can play an oily, smooth, ruthless capitalist who’s still charming and seductive) and make it a straight drama. Or abandon the project altogether. In fact, much as I love Alec Baldwin and think he’d be perfect for the role, I’d still prefer option No. 2. I mean, we didn’t really need a big-screen Dallas, did we?