Hello, he’s actor Jason Priestley. You might remember him from such films as Herschel Hopper: New York Rabbit and Herschel Hopper: New York Rabbit Goes to Summer Camp. Today, I’m here to tell you about his next project: Directing a biopic about the great Phil Hartman, the NewsRadio, Simpsons, and SNL comedy dynamo who was murdered by his wife in 1998. It’s a tragic death that still stings, and it’s unlikely a movie overseen by Brandon Walsh from Beverly Hills, 90210 (his only directorial credit to date: Cas and Dylan, which despite starring Tatiana Maslany and Richard Dreyfuss is only 31% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) is going to help the healing.
But if Priestley pulls it off, I’ve got an old birdcage with his name on it.
Nice Guy Phil, which goes into production into next summer, will star Daran Norris (Cliff from Veronica Mars; he’s also the voice of Cosmo in The Fairly OddParents) as Hartman, with a script from Jonas Chernick (My Awkward Sexual Adventure). The project has the full support of the Hartman estate.
[Producer Tyler] Levine [said] 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 added. “Anyone that knew him always says that he was the nicest guy they ever met.” (Via)
Priestley said that he “stayed in touch” with Hartman after he hosted SNL during the peak of Beverly Hills, 90210‘s popularity. Norris got the part, because not only does he look “quite a bit like Phil,” according to Priestly, but he also submitted a video of himself performing Hartman’s characters.
Plus, he offered to work on contingency? No, money down! (For more on Hartman, check out our NewsRadio oral history.)