Oscar-nominated filmmaker Richard Linklater has signed on to develop, write and direct an untitled film based on the life of controversial comedian Bill Hicks for Focus Features, Collider has exclusively learned.
Hicks got his start doing comedy in Texas, and Linklater was a big fan growing up, so he was especially sad when Hicks died prematurely of cancer just as he was rising to prominence. Linklater has since lamented the fact that the two never got to work together, as they likely would’ve been a natural fit given their creative sensibilities.
Following an Austin screening of the 2009 documentary American: The Bill Hicks Story, co-director Matt Harlock told IndieLondon that Linklater considers himself a contemporary of the late comedian, and that he felt a real resonance with Bill’s story given his own Southern Baptist upbringing in Houston. In fact, Linklater’s older brother went to the same school as Hicks and knew some of his friends, and apparently, Hicks was a big fan of Dazed and Confused, which was released five months before the comedian died in February 1994 at the young age of 32. His memory (and his jokes) lived on, of course, and in 2017, Rolling Stone ranked him 13th on its list of the 50 best stand-up comics of all time.
“There’s not quite any others like him. 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,” said Linklater. “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.”
Linklater is the Oscar-nominated auteur behind the acclaimed Before trilogy as well as the writer, director and producer of Boyhood, which was nominated for Best Picture. He caught his big break in 1990 thanks to the cult classic Slacker, which led to him directing the iconic high school movie Dazed and Confused. Ten years later, he scored a major commercial hit with School of Rock, which spawned a TV series of the same name on Nickelodeon. Linklater’s other feature credits include the uniquely animated films Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, and his more recent films include Everybody Wants Some!! and Last Flag Flying, the latter of which was sorely overlooked last awards season.
It’s unclear whether the Bill Hicks film will be Linklater’s next project, though the director’s plan to make a movie about the Space Race in the summer of 1969 seems to have fallen through at the moment, so it’s certainly possible. He has also been developing a film about 20th century con man John Brinkley, as well as the China-set comedy Larry’s Kidney.
Linklater most recently wrapped an adaptation of Maria Semple‘s bestselling novel Where’d You Go, Bernadette starring Cate Blanchett, Kristen Wiig, Judy Greer, Billy Crudup and Laurence Fishburne. Annapurna will release Bernadette on March 22. Linklater is represented by CAA and Cinetic Media.