Zach Galifianakis has signed on to star in an adaptation of John Kennedy Toole’s Confederacy of Dunces. This is very exciting news that should be taken with at least six grains of salt, as an adaptation of Confederacy has been the white whale to many a comedian. Since 1982, when Harold Ramis tried to adapt it for John Belushi to star, the film has been notoriously doomed. Belushi died right before the film was in pre-production, and same goes for John Candy in 1994 and Chris Farley in 1997. Most recently, Will Ferrell was in talks to star in Steven Soderbergh’s version, which obviously didn’t get made, though thankfully Ferrell is still completely alive.
In And Here’s the Kicker (the current Splitsider Comedy Book Club book), Mike Sacks asks Ramis about why he thinks the film has never been produced. To which Ramis responded:
My final analysis of it is that Confederacy violated one of the basic bylaws of movie comedy, which the producer Michael Shamberg (Ghost World and Pulp Fiction) articulated. He said, “Comedy works two ways. Either you have a normal person in an extraordinary situation or an extraordinary person in a normal situation.” And Confederacy was about an extraordinary person in a serious of extraordinary situations.
If it does get made, Cedar Rapids scribe Phil Johnston is tasked with making it palatable. Ramis did have one tip, which is:
Have the main character Ignatius Reilly work as an air-traffic controller or some such job. Just to put him in a really straight, normal situation and let this guy’s sensibility bounce of the walls.
Bounce off the walls!? Aren’t those air-traffic control rooms surrounded by windows on ever side? That sounds very dangerous. And this is why the film is so doomed.