It’s been close to 30 years since Robert De Niro took the lead in Scorsese’s The King of Comedy – while Rupert Pupkin, the stalker/kidnapper stand-up comedian still burns strong in the minds of De Niro’s fans. But The Comedian will place De Niro back on that stage, as Jackie Burke, the wash-up, the “past-his-best” ageing television joker.
It’s going to be a very interesting film – the Sean Penn /De Niro team-up is one to anticipate. Penn had his debut behind the camera in 2007 with Into the Wild, and one can’t help but wonder how his artistry and vision will work alongside De Niro’s immense talent and lifelong experience. It’s likely that Penn’s latest project will work to pull the actor – whose most notable works took place before the 80’s, and whose more recent endeavours become painful in contrast – out of the shadows.
The film’s protagonist, Jackie, has seen the best of his career pass him by. While he clings onto his glory days and former reputation as a TV funnyman, he searches for an opportunity to restore his career, give himself something to smile about. Around this time, he finds himself being sentenced to a bout of community service for attacking an audience member with a microphone – where he meets Harmony, played by Kirsten Wiig, an exciting choice for the female role, having proven herself more than just a little bit talented in last year’s Bridesmaids.
Art Linson, whose experience lies largely in production, with a varied body of titles including Fight Club, Lords of Dogtown, Heat and Sons of Anarchy, signs the screenplay with Jeffrey Ross co-writing — perhaps drawing from personal experience as a television comedian and master of “roasting”. Linson recently described the film as a “romantic comic drama” — but being familiar with Penn as a filmmaker, I’d imagine that this doesn’t quite capture the encapsulating darkness that can only be hoped for at this point.
The film’s set to be released sometime in 2013, but details haven’t been given yet. It looks like it might be one to really look forward to though. A comedy attached to some of the smartest, funniest and most talented filmmakers in America is bound to leave a few people leaving the theatre, smiling from ear to ear.