Each week the Before The Cyborgs staff comes together to answer one question relating to the current events of that particular. This week, with Tom Hanks set to portray Mr. Rogers in an upcoming biopic, we ask: What unmade biopic would you like to see made in the future? Who would you like to see star in and direct this potential biopic?
He is undoubtedly the most influential and groundbreaking figure in 20th-century pop culture, and yet while his name is known the world over, many parts of his life remain wrapped in mystique. Walt Disney’s work (from creating animated shorts with sound, feature-length animated films, designing world-class theme parks, and much much more) is so ingrained in our pop culture mindset, that it’s very surprising a biographical work on him and his associates haven’t been made. I’ve had the pleasure of reading several biographies on Disney as well as watching the excellent documentary American Experience: Walt Disney and the fascinating chapters of his life would certainly be an intriguing biopic for fans young and old. The story of the Magic Kingdom deserves to be told over and over again.
Starring in a Disney biopic would be a tantalizing project for many actors; Tom Hanks actually did play the man in Saving Mr. Banks (but it wasn’t a biopic on Disney) and was charmingly good in the role. I would be glad to see Hanks take on the role for a full feature, but among other names, I could see in Disney’s shoes would be Leo DiCaprio, Paul Giamatti (who also appeared in Saving Mr. Banks), Adrien Brody, and potentially even Sean Penn.
As for direction, I think any director that understands how to tell a good human story (so not Michael Bay) could tackle this project well. John Lee Hancock (who directed Saving Mr. Banks) has done his share of biopics including The Founder, The Alamo, and The Blind Side, and would certainly be a good choice. Other potential names could include Spielberg, Eastwood, Robert Zemeckis, James Marsh, and Bennett Miller.
Most biopics, particularly those centered on individuals within the entertainment industry, tend to, more often than not, focus on someone with a fondly celebrated reputation that presents a positive outlook on its subject. This suggestion, however, is of someone who is widely known as being an awful person and collaborator, and a film detailing this person’s history would be a much-needed critique of the dangers within the male-dominated field of animation. John Kricfalusi (or better known as John K.) was the creator of the first original cartoon produced for Nickelodeon, The Ren & Stimpy Show, which pushed the boundaries of children’s cartoon shows in the early 1990s, paving the way for more successful shows such as Rocko’s Modern Life and Spongebob Squarepants. The show had a notoriously troubled production cycle, mostly due to John K. being famously difficult to work with, borderline abusive towards his animation staff, and alienating almost everyone in the animation industry. He became the detriment to his own innovative cartoon, and was rightfully fired from the show after a series of mishaps, delays, and controversies, most of which are detailed in the book “Sick Little Monkeys”.
Unlike the route that most biopics take, this movie should not become a romanticization of the genius of John K. as a creator or lament his departure. He is a problematic individual, and especially now, powerful and abusive men in entertainment should be called out for their actions, which is why this story would be especially timely now. There’s no possibility of a movie like this ever existing as Nickelodeon would never allow such a negative depiction of one their flagship franchises to be made, but since this, all just hypothetical, my choice to play John K. is Sam Rockwell. Rockwell has shown in his most recent Oscar-nominated performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri his ability to realistically portray an unlikeable human being. My choice for director would be Craig Gillespie, the director of another recent biopic that was unafraid of portraying its subject in a less than flattering light, I, Tonya. Hopefully without the snarky, fourth-wall-breaking narration or the iPod shuffle playlist this time.
The biopic I would like to see is the biopic I hope they never get a chance to make for that would mean saying goodbye to one of the greatest figures to ever grace our planet: Bill Murray. From his illustrious career as one of the first breakout stars of SNL and beyond to his exploits with fellow comedy legends John Belushi, Gilda Radnor and Chevy Chase to his mysterious ways spreading joy at seemingly random locations (some of which are documented in this book). Bill Murray is a living legend. If he were to take a page out of Agnes Varda’s book and allow a crew to follow his day to day exploits in a documentary-style film akin to Varda’s recently Oscar-nominated Faces Places, I’m sure the material there would be golden. However, given the fact that Murray is notoriously private (going as far as to not have an agent) and that such a film would be more a documentary and less a biopic I suppose this is a bit of a cop-out answer.
So to appease those naysayers (and the fact that I want Bill Murray to live on for eternity), the biopic I would like to see that could be made today is one that traces the life of Audrey Hepburn. A prominent figure during the Golden Age of Hollywood, her performances in films such as Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Roman Holiday, Funny Face and Charade cemented her status in pop culture history. One of only 11 people in history to have received the EGOT (an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony) her career as an actress, humanitarian and style icon is one well worthy of a film adaptation.
In terms of casting, one does not have to look further than Rooney Mara who physically looks the part and has the ability to morph into whatever the role demands of her (see the wild contrast between Mara in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and the much more subtle Mara in something like A Ghost Story). As for a director, pairing Mara back up with Todd Haynes who she previously worked with on Carol seems like a natural fit especially considering that if this were a reality, it has all the makings of a classic “Oscar” type of movie.