By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist February 23, 2011 at 2:10AM
Hank Azaria, Will Sasso, Johnny Knoxville Also Mentioned
It's now four years since the last film from one-time comedy titans The Farrelly Brothers. The duo dominated the genre in the 1990s, knocking out three bona-fide classics, "Dumb & Dumber," "Kingpin" and "There's Something About Mary," in quick succession, but their efforts in the last decade ranged from the genial ("Stuck On You," "Fever Pitch") to the unwatchable ("Shallow Hal," "The Heartbreak Kid"). Their latest project, the Owen Wilson/Jason Sudeikis marital comedy "Hall Pass," hits theaters on Friday (and by all accounts, isn't anywhere near a comeback), which finally clears the way for their longtime passion project: "The Three Stooges."
The film, which would see contemporary actors take up the personas of the comedy trio of Larry, Moe & Curly, has been in the works for a decade, and seemed to be seriously moving forward back in 2009, with the surprisingly high-calibre trio of Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro and Jim Carrey in the lead roles. Financial troubles at MGM, and the wavering commitment of the cast members delayed the project, but the end of last year saw the news that the project was now set up at Fox, and that the directing duo were now in search of new cast members (Penn and Carrey having long since departed), with a start date in March being eyed.
Johnny Knoxville, Andy Samberg and Australian comic Shane Jacobson were linked to the leads not so long ago, while Peter Farrelly said as recently as a month ago that Del Toro was still the front-runner to play Moe, and Richard Jenkins and Cher had both been linked to supporting roles. Now, speaking to the Boston Herald, in promotion of "Hall Pass," the Farrellys seem to have let slip the names of some of the other actors they're considering, and it's a... diverse bunch.
Among the names that have cropped up are: terminally undervalued "The Simpsons" veteran Hank Azaria and Johnny Knoxville (again) competing for Moe; Canadian actor Will Sasso, who currently stars in the CBS sitcom "$#*! My Dad Says," is leading a pack of relative unknowns to play Curly; and perhaps oddest of all, Justin Timberlake, Woody Harrelson and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" star Larry David are all said to have been approached as prospective Larrys.
It's almost certain that this is the only time that Timberlake and David will ever be up for the same role, but there seems to be a reason for the eclecticism -- the Farrellys will build the cast around the first lock that they have. Bobby Farrelly relates "We haven't cast it yet, we haven't picked anyone. It's a little tricky, right? Because they all have to be around the same age and even around the same height. We're waiting for that first person that we're going to say, 'This is going to be our Moe, Larry or Curly' and we'll build around that. But it's going to happen soon. It will be within three weeks." Reports that Bill Hader, Michael Sheen, Andy Serkis, Laura Linney, Hailee Steinfeld, Wesley Snipes and the dog from "Marley & Me" are also in consideration are, as yet, entirely made up. By us.
Considering the film was originally meant to be going before cameras in three weeks, it seems the casting indecision has caused a delay -- the Herald says that the film will now get underway in April. Farrelly also reveals that the film will be shot in the south: "We need good weather, so we have to head south. And unfortunately for Massachussets, Georgia has a better tax incentive and that's huge. We save millions by going down there and you just can't talk the studio out of it."
We've always been a little puzzled by this project; not only do the Three Stooges mean next to nothing to anyone under the age of forty, but they've also never had much international appeal -- let alone the odd idea of actors taking over personas so closely associated with the original performers. It looks like the Farrellys are finally set to get their way, but we're just going to say this once: if anyone tries to pull this shit with the Marx Brothers, we'll start burning stuff down. "The Three Stooges" will presumably hit theaters some time in 2012.