The late John Belushi will be the subject of an upcoming biography film, and Variety confirms that actor Emile Hirsch has signed on to play the comedian who rose to national fame as one of the original cast members of Saturday Night Live. Steve Conrad wrote and will direct the as yet untitled film based on the 2005 biography Belushi, which was written by Judy Belushi Pisano (Belushi’s high school sweetheart and former wife) and Tanner Colby.
The movie will cover the rise and fall of the famed comedian through his years on SNL and the big screen success of National Lampoon’s Animal House and The Blues Brothers to his untimely passing of a drug overdose from a mixture of cocaine and heroin at the young age of thirty-three. He passed in Hollywood’s famed Chateau Marmont.
The legend and mythology of Belushi has served as a cautionary tale of the dangers of excess for decades. Dan Aykroyd, a friend of the late larger than life comic star and frequent collaborator will serve as executive producer on the film. Hirsch seemingly appears an unlikely choice to play the famously stout and outrageous personality of Belushi; nonetheless, this marks the first biopic of the comedian’s life since the 1989 film Wired, which starred Michael Chiklis. That film, an adaptation of Bob Woodward’s biography, was not embraced by Pisano, who serves as one of the producers of the new film.
Hirsch has made a name for himself in indie films like Into the Wild (for which he received a Screen Actor Guild nomination for Best Actor), Killer Joe and Milk, and will appear next in the television mini-series Bonnie & Clyde as outlaw Clyde Barrow. He will next be seen on screen in Peter Berg’s Lone Survivor, which is set to have its world premiere at the AFI Film Festival in Hollywood before opening for awards consideration in limited release in late December. Conrad’s past screenwriting credits include the Nicolas Cage dark comedy The Weather Man, The Pursuit of Happyness, and this winters The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, directed by and starring Ben Stiller. Conrad has also directed the 2008 indie comedy The Promotion, which starred Seann William Scott and John C. Rielly. Filming is slated to begin next spring in New York City.