Robert De Niro is so widely respected in Hollywood that he could really do anything he wants at this stage in his career. To the Oscar winner’s credit, though, he’s not rolling over and taking easy paycheck roles all the time – for years, De Niro has been pushing to get The Comedian made, with an eye to starring in the Art Linson-penned drama. And now, he’ll finally complete that passion project, having recruited Taylor Hackford to direct the pic.
De Niro will take on the role of a self-destructive, acerbic insult comic inspired partly by comedian Don Rickles (De Niro’s co-star in Casino). It won’t be the actor’s first time playing a professional funnyman – he took on the role of aspiring comedian Rupert Pupkin to widespread acclaim in The King of Comedy.
Excitingly, though Linson (known for the De Niro-starring, Hollywood-set What Just Happened?) wrote the script, the stand-up material for the movie was actually provided by Jeffrey Ross, who has been a standout at celebrity roasts on Comedy Central for years. That added comic cred should let the film yield some genuine laughs while also working as a complex character study.
Mike Newell (Mona Lisa Smile) was previously attached to helm the pic, but he was forced to drop out over scheduling conflicts, and Hackford was quickly brought in to keep on schedule. De Niro will head to New York in mid-January to shoot the film, with plans to release it later next year.
Hackford has tackled a variety of projects, including the Jason Statham actioner Parker, Love Ranch and Ray, another performance-driven pic that earned Jamie Foxx an Oscar. De Niro is certainly eyeing this as a potential awards contender, so bringing in someone with a history of Oscar attention makes a lot of sense.
Casting is now underway for The Comedian, so check back for more updates on that front shortly.