The Three Stooges: Cher as a nun? And Benicio del Toro's not out ...
Larry, Curly, Moe and...Cher?
Even as they continue to seek the three leads for their big-screen version of "The Three Stooges," Peter and Bobby Farrelly say they have an unusual idea for one of the lead female roles: The brothers are aiming to put Cher in the movie.
The goal is for the singer-actress to play Mother Superior, the nun whom the Stooges terrorize.
Cher had a cameo in the Farrellys' Siamese-twin comedy "Stuck on You" back in 2003. At the time, the writer-directors spoke to the diva about a part in the "Stooges" film, which they'd hoped to shoot next. (They've been developing it for a long time.) She agreed, they said.
"Cher is just the coolest chick ever," Peter Farrelly told 24 Frames. "It's hard to describe. You meet a lot of celebrities in our business. We're not cowed by many of them. But Cher is bawdy, she's fun, she's cool, she's lived a life, she's got experience, she's humble. It's the humility that struck me the most. She's not really a diva." A representative for Cher did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Casting for the Fox film -- which aims to shoot, after years of development holdups, this spring -- is entering the homestretch.
In an interview for their upcoming infidelity romp "Hall Pass" (more on that soon), the Farrellys say that while their initial "Stooges" trio of Sean Penn (Larry), Jim Carrey (Curly) and Benicio Del Toro (Moe) has broken up, casting may yet move in an unexpected direction. Del Toro, for instance, is someone "we're still considering," Bobby Farrelly said.
(Incidentally, Penn dropped out of the nyuk-nyuk-fest when he decided to concentrate on his charitable efforts in Haiti. Carrey chose not to star in the film even after gaining more than 40 pounds for the role, though the Farrellys didn't exactly have a chance to convince him to stay. "We never heard from him, but we read it," Peter Farrelly said. So he never picked up a phone to call them? "Now that would have been nice," Farrelly said of the actor whose career was given a big boost when he starred in the Farrellys' "Dumb & Dumber" in 1994.)
As for the rumors that Andy Samberg and Johnny Knoxville were on the shortlist to star in "Stooges," don't be quick to rule that out.
"We like both of those guys," said Bobby Farrelly. "We always thought Samberg looks a little like he could play Larry. And Knoxville is a real-life stooge. He's a real-life Moe."
The casting challenge for the filmmakers is to find actors with a rare mix of skills: a flair for comedy and a capacity for imitation to go along with an innate physicality.
"We need to get the voices. The Stooges had very specific voices and we need to get as close as we can to that," Bobby Farrelly said. But, he added, "We've seen some guys come in that are pretty spot-on, but at the same time there's something about them that's not funny. Just because they can do a great imitation doesn't mean you're going to burst out laughing when you watch it."
What's more, the roles require a difficult balance of originality and imitation, Peter Farrelly added.
Despite the initial casting of A-list stars, the brothers say they're willing to consider little-known actors. "There are unknowns who are amazing, and there are knowns who are amazing," Bobby Farrelly said. "And we want to be fair. If a complete unknown is the best, we want to go with that guy."
In their heyday, The Stooges (played primarily by Larry Fine, Curly Howard and Moe Howard) didn't make any full-length features. That offers the Farrellys both a challenge an opportunity. "They never really had a big movie, and in a movie you need to have the heart, you need to have something you really do care about," Bobby Farrelly said. "You're spending an hour-and-a-half with them."
The Farrellys' movie will consist of a trio of interconnected featurettes, all set in the present day. The aim is to use the same music and many of the same stunts employed by the original shorts, but modernized and recontextualized. It will also be the first PG movie the hard-R pioneers have ever made.
The Farrellys say they're aware of the creative challenges that come with re-creating the Stooges' classic comedy.
"I don't think we're going to improve on the Stooges," said Bobby Farrelly. "It's not going to better than what they did. If we can approach what they did, I'd be happy. There's nothing inside of me that thinks it's going to be funnier than what they did."
Peter interjected: "The Stooges themselves, we can't beat. But I think we can beat the material. And it's because they didn't have a budget. We don't have a huge budget, but they didn't have anything. They were working on nothing. They were creating something out of thin air to put in the present day and put in the real world; updating it allows us to be better than they were." (To ensure a high level of authenticity, the Farrellys have hired Billy West, who impersonates Larry on Howard Stern's radio show, as a consultant.)
Perhaps most of all, the filmmakers acknowledge that the perceptual issues may be the largest obstacle.
"No matter what we do, some people will not like this movie, just because there are the purists who say 'You shouldn't be remaking it,' " said Peter Farrelly. "Our feeling about it is this: We love the Three Stooges. And the Three Stooges never got the Class A treatment they deserve. They were never Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello or the Marx brothers. They never got movies, and they never got the adulation in their lives that we feel they deserve."
He paused. "We've thought about it for 12 years. I literally lie in bed thinking about every single shot. I've never been more prepared to do a movie in my life."
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photos: The Three Stooges in 'Phony Express.' Credit: Alex Film Society. Cher in 'Stuck on You.' Credit: Glenn Watson / Twentieth Century Fox