Would 'The Three Stooges' work better or worse with younger, less prestigious actors?
It's hard to know how well acquainted young people are with "The Three Stooges." Do they regard them as a bedrock of American comedy, or simply think of them as some act their parents (or grandparents) watched?
With 20th Century Fox now making a movie based on the comedy troupe that debuted in the Depression era, the question is: Who should play the slapsticky average Joes?
According to a report this week in the Wrap, "Saturday Night Live's" Andy Samberg, an Australian comedian named Shane Jacobson and "Jackass" co-creator Johnny Knoxville have had discussions about taking on the roles of Larry, Curly and Moe, respectively. (20th Century Fox's aim for the Farrelly Bros. movie, which will be structured as a set of three inter-connected extended shorts, is to shoot sometime in 2011.)
Two people with knowledge of the production who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the project say that these are but a few of the actors being considered. That a whole slew of people, nearly all in their 20s and 30s, are in the running means that the odds it will happen with this particular combination are long. (Fox declined comment for this story.)
But the fact that producers are now considering actors almost exclusively under 40 (of the three known names, Knoxville, at 39, is the oldest) is news in itself. In the movie's previous iteration at financially troubled MGM, it was the troika of Sean Penn, Jim Carrey and Benicio Del Toro who were set to inhabit the roles (playing Larry, Curly and Moe, respectively).
That group clocked in at average age of 46. (Incidentally, the Stooges, at the height of their popularity in the late 1930s and early 1940s, were in their late 30s and early 40s.) More important, the Penn-Carrey-Benicio trio forms a group of serious actors, with a total of seven Oscar nominations among them, which is exactly seven more than this latest group has.
It's not hard to see the motivation for doing the film with the Knoxville-Jacobson-Samberg axis, or something along those lines. In addition to being more comedic and youth-friendly, it's a group that comes a lot cheaper than a trio of A-listers.
Then again, it's also hard not to see a downside. The Stooges, for all their broad physical comedy, actually practiced a subtle form of acting, the kind that this generation's finer performers could almost certainly pull off. With this new group, that certainty wouldn't be there, and neither would the curiosity factor of seeing Sean Penn getting hit in the head with a hammer. We'll see what comes in to take its place.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: The Three Stooges short "Phony Express." Credit: Alex Film Society