According to Variety, Jason Priestley is set to helm a biopic on Phil Hartman, entitled Nice Guy Phil, starring Daran Norris as Hartman.
Norris is a veteran voice actor (TV’s Fairly Odd Parents) and has voiced hundreds of characters for film, TV, and video games. Jonas Chernick (My Awkward Sexual Adventure) penned the screenplay.
Priestley, best known as heartthrob Brandon Walsh of TV’s Beverly Hills 90210 which began in 1990 and ran for 10 years, began directing while still an actor on the FOX television series. He has directed several TV episodes as well as TV movies. He made his feature film directing debut with 2013’s comedy-drama, Cas and Dylan, which starred Academy Award winner Richard Dreyfuss (RED).
Hartman is best known as a cast member for 8 seasons on Saturday Night Live. On SNL, he did several impressions of the famous, including President Clinton, President Reagan, Frank Sinatra, Charlton Heston, Barbara Bush, and Phil Donahue. He also did voice work on The Simpsons during its first 10 seasons. Tragically, Hartman was shot and killed in his sleep by his wife in 1998; she committed suicide several hours later.
Priestley said that casting Hartman’s role was challenging because it required an actor who could convincingly play him as well as deliver a wide variety of voices. Norris went all out for the part, creating a video of himself performing Hartman’s impressions. Priestley stated that Norris “is ideal for the part. He looks quite a bit like Phil and he’s an expert at voices.” Priestley had known fellow Canadian Hartman from SNL, which he hosted in 1992. “We stayed in touch and he was always very warm and gracious,” he said about Hartman.
The project has been in development for several years with the cooperation of Hartman’s estate. Tyler Levine is producing through his Toronto-based Carousel Pictures banner with support from Telefilm Canada and the Cogeco Fund. Levine said that the film will explore both the comedy and the emotional challenges that Hartman faced. “Comedians are notoriously complex people and Phil was no exception,” he said. “Anyone that knew him always says that he was the nicest guy they ever met.” Nice Guy Phil is expected to go into production next summer.