A biographical film about Hugh Hefner promises lots of drama, high stakes and, of course, beautiful bunnies. So it is surprising that Hefner has not yet been the focus of a mainstream film. That looks like it may change shortly though as the long-gestating biopic about the founder of Playboy is closer than ever. Director David Dobkin, best known for Wedding Crashers, is now attached to the project, which also has the benefit of perhaps the best biopic screenwriter out there, Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, Rush).
The untitled project, which may balance the comedy that Dobkin is notable for directing with a heavier screenplay from Morgan, has spent many years in pre-production. Originally, Universal and Imagine Entertainment were going to make the film with Brett Ratner directing. Both Robert Downey Jr. and Hugh Jackman were eyed for the glamorous leading part. Now, Warner Bros. and producer Jerry Weintraub (Behind the Candelabra) are behind the project.
According to Variety, the film will focus on the time that Hefner founded the magazine in 1953 (fun fact: the publication’s original name was Stag Party) to around the 1970s, after much controversy, more publicity and even an arrest. It will be interesting to see whether the film will portray Hefner well into his eighties, which will require quite a make-up job on the actor who gets the role. Or, perhaps Stan Lee, who made a memorable cameo as Hefner in Iron Man, can play the aged version of the Playboy founder.
Unfortunately, a Hefner biopic may be coming too late. Many people have fond memories of 1996’s The People vs. Larry Flynt, which featured stellar turns from Woody Harrelson, Courtney Love and Edward Norton. That was a raucous and revealing look at another provocateur, and so the Hefner biopic would have to differentiate itself from that terrific drama. With Dobkin directing and Morgan writing though, the potential is certainly there.
So, who would your dream Hugh Hefner be? After looking at some photos of a younger Hefner online, I could see Billy Crudup, Dominic West or James McAvoy in the part. What do you think?