“Watching television is like taking black spray paint to your third eye,” early alternative comedian Bill Hicks observed, probably on a televised special. Movies are a different story, and filmmaker Richard Linklater, who took over ten years to make one coming-of-age flick, is a different kind of director. The Oscar-winnng director of Boyhood will develop, write and direct a movie about Hicks for Focus Features, according to Collider.
This is a passion project for Linklater. Both he and Hicks grew up in Houston, Linklater’s older brother went to the same school as Hicks, and the director has said he regretted he and the comedian never got to work together. According to reports, Hicks was a fan of Linklater’s Dazed And Confused, whichcame out a few months before Hicks died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 32 in 1994.
“There’s not quite any others like him,” Linklater says in the documentary American: The Bill Hicks Story. “They don’t speak in the same voice. You’d think people would take that torch and go with it, but it’s a rare combination of that kind of intelligence, mysticism, political, you know… his politics, his angle, it’s pretty unique. I go through my life all the time… everything that’s going on in our culture, I always think, what would Bill Hicks be doing? You just miss him.”
Hicks, who was ranked 13th on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 50 best stand-up comics of all time, was raised Southern Baptist, like Linklater. Hicks started doing standup while he was still in high school at 16 at the Comedy Workshop in Houston. His humor was branded “dark,” which may have been the reason he never broke through like some of the comedians who were heavily influenced by him, such as Dennis Leary.
“On December 16th, 1961 the world turned upside down and inside out, and I was born screaming at America,” Hicks autobiographically proclaimed on his 1993 album Revelations. “It was the tail end of the American Dream. Just before we lost our innocence irrevocably when the TV eye brought the horror of our lives into our homes for all to see. I was told when I grew up I could be anything I wanted a fireman, a policeman, a doctor, even president it seemed, and for the first time in the history of mankind something new called an astronaut. But like many kids growing up on a steady diet of westerns I always wanted to be the cowboy hero that lone voice in the wilderness fighting corruption and evil wherever I found it, and standing for freedom, truth, and justice.”
There is no word on whether the as-yet-untitled Bill Hicks biopic will be Linklater’s next film. who had plans to develop a film about the Space Race in the summer of 1969. He is working on a movie about con man John Brinkley, and the comedy Larry’s Kidney. Linklater is in in post-production on an adaptation of Maria Semple’s novel Where’d You Go, Bernadette starring Cate Blanchett, Kristen Wiig, Judy Greer, Billy Crudup and Laurence Fishburne, which comes out on March 22.
Linklater also directed Slacker, Before Sunset, Before Midnight, School of Rock, Waking Life, Everybody Wants Some!! and Last Flag Flying.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.
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