After much speculation as to who would take on the responsibility of portraying the storied comedian, Film 360 announced Monday that Emile Hirsch, 28, has signed on to play John Belushi in director Steve Conrad’s still-untitled biopic.
The long-gestating biopic only recently regained traction when Conrad, who wrote The Pursuit of Happyness, The Weather Man, and Ben Stiller’s upcoming The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, signed on to both write and direct. The Hangover’s Todd Phillips was originally slated to direct. Reports surfaced last week that he’d held meetings with Hirsch and Workaholics lead Adam DeVine about taking on the role. Even Joaquin Phoenix’s name was thrown around as a potential contender.
John Belushi was only 33 when he died of an overdose in Los Angeles at the Chateau Marmont, but he had already managed to make an incredible impact on the culture as one of the original castmembers of Saturday Night Live and through memorable roles in films like The Blues Brothers, Animal House, and 1941. Michael Chiklis played Belushi in the 1989 film Wired, a major flop from director Larry Peerce (Goodbye, Columbus) that has yet to be released on DVD, but other than that the late comedian has yet to be given a proper biopic.
Hirsch is no stranger to portraying real-life characters. In Sean Penn’s Into the Wild, Hirsch brought Christopher McCandless to life based on Jon Krakauer’s account, and then in 2008 in Gus Van Sant’s Milk, Hirsch played AIDS activist Cleve Jones. Still, Belushi is easily the highest-profile figure he’s ever taken on.
Conrad, who is adapting a book penned by Belushi’s widow Judith Belushi Pisano and Tanner Colby, expects to shoot the biopic in the spring of 2014. Emjag’s Alexandra Milchan, Bonnie Timmermann, Film 360’s Scott Lambert, and Judy Belushi Pisano are producing. The role of Dan Aykroyd, Belushi’s friend and Blues Brothers co-star, has yet to be cast.