EXCLUSIVE: Heeeeeeere’s a feature film project that has potential. John McLaughlin and producer Tom Thayer have teamed up with the estate of Johnny Carson on a feature film about the life of the venerable Tonight Show host. The film will be scripted by McLaughlin, who wrote the Darren Aronofsky-directed Natalie Portman-starrer Black Swan and most recently adapted the Sacha Gervasi-directed Hitchcock from Steve Rebello’s book. Thayer produced that movie, which stars Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, and he will produce the Carson project. They’ll shop McLaughlin’s script to buyers right after the holidays.
The film will be based on the upcoming Bill Zehme book Carson The Magnificent: An Intimate Portrait. Zehme, who has written features on late-night combatants Jay Leno and David Letterman, was the only journalist Carson spoke to after his retirement, including an Esquire cover story about how Carson marked the 10th anniversary of abdicating the late-night throne. Zehme was a consultant and appeared in King Of Late Night, the Emmy-nominated PBS documentary on Carson’s career.
McLaughlin is working away on the script now. Considering that Carson was in so many American homes on a daily basis through his show, he was a rather private man off the screen. The machinations of the late-night talk show game became full of intrigue and controversy when Carson left, and considering how much the current crop of late-night hosts idolize him, Carson certainly has an enduring legacy. Is it too early to begin speculating about who might play Carson and Ed McMahon?
WME is repping the Carson Estate and Thayer, CAA reps McLaughlin, and Hotchkiss and Associates is representing Zehme on behalf of Sterling Lord Literistic.