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A few casting suggestions in advance of the upcoming Jerry Garcia biopic

July 22, 2010 | 12:17 pm

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Hopefully, it will be more "American Beauty," than "Hell in a Bucket" but according to an article in today's Variety, a biopic on Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia appears to be heading down the golden road to unlimited devotion. After all, nearly 15 years after the hirsute guitar god passed away, the Dead retains a die-hard cadre of fans and admirers.

At least, that's what Eric Eisner and his Bona Fide partners Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa ("Little Miss Sunshine," "Cold Mountain") are hoping for. The idea has long been in gestation, but plans are appearing to solidify, with a script in place from Topper Lilien, a screenwriter best known for "Dungeons & Dragons," a background that would appear to give him a solid grounding in knowing how to cinematically depict hallucinations.

Slated to be directed by Amir Bar-Lev (director of the documentary "The Tillman Story"), the script reportedly centers on Garcia's early life prior to joining the Grateful Dead. Based on the Robert Greenfield-written oral history, "Dark Star,"  the movie will supposedly trace the formation of Garcia's creative consciousness, including his father's drowning, a failed stint in the Army, and a near-fatal 1961 car accident that he claimed caused him to start taking guitar playing seriously.

The lone remaining obstacle (beyond the notoriously perilous process of seeing a film from script to actual theatrical release) is finding someone to play the estimated prophet. While the wise move would be to cast a talented unknown, the producers will likely be looking for someone with box office cachet. And because baseless speculation is the most popular activity on the Internet, here are a few Pop & Hiss suggestions for the role.

Jeff Bridges: No one plays heavily bearded and stoned musicians quite like Bridges. Coming off the strength of "Crazy Heart," it's unlikely that Bridges would want to traverse similar terrain. However, his work in "The Big Lebowski" would suggest that no one has greater familiarity with laissez faire cool and the occasional acid flashback. Of course, arranging for the 60-year old Bridges to play the twentysomething Garcia would be tough. Thank God for airbrushing.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Red hot off the strength of "Inception," Levitt is suddenly at the top of Hollywood's request list. He's a quality actor, but may lack the shamanistic qualities of Garcia. By which I mean that he probably has not taken nearly enough psychedelic drugs. Then again, that's what pre-production is for.

Seth Rogen: He's smoked enough weed, he can grow a good beard, and he's very funny. Should the filmmakers decide to go gonzo, this is the recommended path. Rogen is best cast with Jonah Hill as Phil Lesh.

James Franco: Franco is probably not the ideal choice to play Garcia, but if he can play Allen Ginsberg in "Howl," he can surely handle another '60s icon. Plus, his work in "Pineapple Express" reveals a narcotically  enhanced versatility.

Someone from Kings of Leon: Granted, there is almost no chance of this happening. I just want to make it clear that this would be the worst casting decision since Colin Farrell was cast as Alexander the Great.

-- Jeff Weiss

Photo: Pinned to a telephone pole at the corner of Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco in the days following his 1995 death is a picture of Jerry Garcia and flowers left in his honor. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times


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