Woody Harrelson is The Best, right? From White Men Can’t Jump, Natural Born Killers and The People vs. Larry Flynt to No Country for Old Men, True Detective and War for the Planet of the Apes, he has always been one of my favorite actors thanks to his versatility and his intensity. I mean, if you don’t like Woody Harrelson, do you even like movies? He plays a pretty delightful weirdo, too, which is why he’s kind of perfect for the lead in Ted Melfi‘s Fruit Loops, a drama that’s said to be in the vein of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
First of all, Cuckoo’s Nest is one of my all-time favorite movies and I think it is absolutely perfect in every way. Having said that, its general setting — that of a mental institution full of quirky patients — is actually fairly ripe for a new take. According to my sources, Melfi’s script follows a group of misfit mental patients who band together when their group is threatened by the hospital’s sudden sale. Even as a Cuckoo’s Nest devotee, that sounds like a movie I’d watch. I mean, it’s not like it’s a remake or anything. Who wouldn’t be inspired by Milos Forman‘s 1975 masterpiece, based on the classic novel by Ken Kesey?
I’m told that Harrelson is nearing a deal to play Colonel Leonard F. Cubby, a life-long resident of Sunnyside who suffers from chronic PTSD as a result of endless tours in Vietnam, where he witnessed some terrible things. There’s also a young heroin addict who’s the son of a wealthy politician and looks out of place in the ward; a female hippie with multiple personalities, one of whom is a sex addict; a mildly autistic and bipolar mountain of a man who’s described as a gentle giant of few words (does Chief ring a bell?); and a female paranoid schizophrenic with religious delusions who records a daily vlog. That’s the quartet of characters who will join Harrelson, and it sure would be interested if Jack Nicholson‘s son, Ray Nicholson, ends up playing the heroin addict. I understand it’s a juicy role on the page and some of Hollywood’s top young male talent will likely pursue it, but Nicholson is an up-and-coming actor who’d represent a passing of the torch as well as an homage to the film’s clear inspiration.
Fox 2000 and Chernin Entertainment are backing the project, which Fox 2000’s Elizabeth Gabler bought as a pitch for seven figures back when Hidden Figures was about to hit theaters. It went on to earn three Oscar nominations and gross $325 million worldwide, making Melfi’s next movie a coup.
Chernin Entertainment also produced Melfi’s 2014 movie St. Vincent starring Bill Murray, who interestingly enough, I’ve heard nearly starred in Fruit Loops. However, Murray recently signed on to reunite with a different director and star in Sofia Coppola‘s father-daughter movie On the Rocks with Rashida Jones, so he wasn’t expected to be available, and is said to be a hard-enough man to reach and schedule a movie around anyway.
Fruit Loops is expected to be Melfi’s next movie even though he just signed on to direct the time-travel-themed sci-fi movie Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers for Warner Bros. and Andrew Lazar‘s Mad Chance banner. That film is based on the 1987 Hugo Award-winning short story by Lawrence Watt-Evans, and the script by Steve Desmond and Michael Sherman is said to be a cross between Back to the Future and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The story follows a down-on-his-luck high school student who discovers that the roadside diner where he works nights is actually an intergalactic hangout for time-travelers. THR broke that news on Wednesday.
Melfi, who recently did a polish on the script for Sony’s The Phantom Tollbooth and continues to develop an adaptation of Mark Millar‘s comic Huck at Netflix, is represented by UTA.
As for Harrelson, he’s coming off Solo: A Star Wars Story and the Best Picture nominee Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, plus he made a brief appearance in Sony’s blockbuster comic book movie Venom, and is slated for a larger role in the sequel. Frankly, it’s because he has another big-budget movie on the horizon that I’m glad Harrelson is taking the time to do something that’s a bit smaller and more character-based. He next stars in Netflix’s The Highwaymen with Kevin Costner and in Roland Emmerich‘s war movie Midway, as well as Sony’s long-gestating sequel Zombieland: Double Tap. He’s repped by CAA, and his casting was first reported by Deadline.