EXCLUSIVE: The approval of the MGM pre-packaged bankruptcy has opened the door for the long-gestating comedy The Three Stooges to get made at 20th Century Fox. The studio has taken the project over from MGM and has scheduled a March 14 start date for the comedy. Bobby and Peter Farrelly will direct a script they wrote with Mike Cerrone. Conundrum partner Bradley Thomas will produce with Charles B. Wessler. The film will be exec produced by Earl Benjamin, the gatekeeper of the Stooges estate, and the stepson of Joe DeRita. DeRita was the sixth member of the troupe. He played the role originated by Jerome “Curly” Howard, who suffered a stroke and was succeeded by his brother Samuel (Shemp). After Shemp died suddenly, he was replaced by Joe Besser, who gave way to the vaudeville vet De Rita.
The project has no cast at this point. Jim Carrey and Sean Penn are out, and it is unclear whether Benicio Del Toro will play Moe. The deal brings the project back to Fox, where the Farrellys are based. The Three Stooges has been a passion project for Conundrum for over a decade, first at Columbia Pictures, then Warner Bros, and finally MGM. Things looked strong with Carrey, Penn and Del Toro until Penn took a sabbatical for personal reasons. He floated in and out, and then everything halted when MGM hit the financial rocks last year.
The Farrellys know that casting such iconic roles has always been a tall order, but Peter Farrelly told me that they will play to their strength: a terrific script which will be made for a reasonable budget. They will begin casting immediately.
The picture takes place when the trio are dumped out as newborns at the door of an orphanage, and they are talking with Richard Jenkins to play the head nun who is terrorized by the precocious Stooges. The comedy follows them to adulthood and is very much in the spirit of the original shorts, in which the blue collar bumblers got the best of the wealthy society matrons that tried to exploit them. Oh, yeah, there will be the non-stop physical comedy that is the trademark of the Stooges franchise.
“The script is ready to go, and we are opening up these roles to the world right now,” Peter Farrelly told me. “We’ll make it with the best possible people. Our feeling is that no star is too big to audition and no matter who it is, we’re going to have to see him in the role. This is not The Flinstones. You’ve got to be Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Howard, and that could be a major movie star or an unknown.”
The film is eye-ing Atlanta as location and the movie will follow the format of the original shorts that the Stooges made for Columbia Pictures chief Harry Cohn over 24 years. The film will be divided into three segments, each 27 minutes long, which gives the Farrellys the chance to use all three of the signature theme songs that started the classic shorts. The goal is to make a PG film, and still incorporate the physical comedy.
“There will be non-stop slapping, more in the tone of Dumb and Dumber than anything else we’ve done,” Farrelly said. “Our goal is 85 minutes of laughs in a film that will be very respectful of who the Stooges were. It’s by far the riskiest project we’ve ever done, without question, but it is also the one closest to our hearts.”