Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons alum Phil Hartman was killed almost 20 years ago, but his legacy of comedy still lives on. His collection of characters, from The Simpsons‘ Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure to SNL‘s Frozen Caveman Lawyer and Prince Charming, remains fresh in our minds.
The Canadian funnyman (born in Brantford, Ont.) is getting a feature-film treatment, and fellow Canuck Jason Priestley — of 90210 fame — is going to direct. Tentatively titled Nice Guy Phil, the movie will be produced by Tyler Levine of Carousel Films.
Casting the lead for a biopic about the comedian and impersonator proved nearly impossible; affectionately known as “The Man of A Thousand Voices,” Hartman was responsible for 75 different SNL characters and 25 unique Simpsons voices.
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“We held auditions for the past five months,” said Levine.
The role remained uncast until Levine got a call from actor Daran Norris. Norris had prepared two audition tapes which were based on actual Hartman performances.
“Norris’ similarity to Hartman is uncanny,” said Levine. “The auditions were so similar to Phil Hartman’s original performances it gave me chills. Plus, the way Norris fought for the role took real chutzpah, just like Phil would have done.”
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To-be director Priestley met Hartman when he hosted SNL back in 1995. “Knowing I was a Canadian like him, Phil treated me differently. He was a hero of mine. Still is. I’m excited to tell his story,” said Priestley.
Levine secured the life rights from the late comedian’s estate in 2013, a feat in itself. It took years to convince the Estate of Phil Hartman that he would honour Hartman’s story properly. A portion of the proceeds will be allocated to Phil and Brynn Hartman’s children, Birgen and Sean.
To be shot in both Canada and the U.S., production is slated for summer 2016.