Emile Hirsch is one of those guys who could have taken the easy route to quick success. After wowing audiences with indie fare like The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys and The Emperor's Club, he segued into bigger films like Gus Van Sant's Oscar-winning Milk and The Wachowski's doomed Speed Racer before taking a lengthy hiatus. He's been quietly making movies, like this summer's alien invasion thriller The Darkest Hour and the low-budget Killer Joe, but according to Variety he's nabbed his first "leading role" since Speed Racer in an adaptation of Willy Vlautin's Motel Life.
Alan and Gabriel Polsky (Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans) are producing through their Polsky Films banner and may take on directing and scripting duties as they have not yet locked a filmmaker. The story centers on two brothers who flee their Reno motel room after getting involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident. A few others roles need to be cast before the film can move forward, but the goal is to shoot sometime this year.
I find Hirsch to be one of the most gifted young performers in the industry and his choice of roles conveys maturity well beyond his years. After starring in a big budget movie like Speed Racer, most actors his age would've continued to pursue popcorn projects on that scale even if they were as hollow as Michele Bachmann's cranium. Not Hirsch. Even though he did take on The Darkest Hour in a year where alien invasion flicks are releasing every other month, its hand-held camera style, unique setting and impressive cast and crew suggest a different take on the sub-genre of sci-fi. With Motel Life, Hirsch continues to avoid mainstream movies in favor of very specific cinema and he'll build on his reputation as an actor who can transform with ease.
Final Note: I'm not sure why Variety calls this his first leading role since Speed Racer, as he appears to be the male lead in The Darkest Hour. True, it's an ensemble cast, but Motel Life seems to be too.
Sean Penn is heading back to the waves.
The actor, who played the instantly legendary fictional surfer Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, is in negotiations to tackle real surfing icon Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz. According to Variety, Penn will produce a film based on Paskowitz and his family and is eyeing the untitled project as a starring vehicle.
Alan and Gabe Polsky are also on board to produce.
For the past two decades, producers from Matt Weaver to Graydon Carter have tried unsuccessfully to secure the life rights to the now 89-year-old Paskowitz. The patriarch finally gave his blessing to the Polskys once they were able to attach Penn to the project, says Variety.
Paul Feldsher will write the screenplay.
Paskowitz left behind a medical practice in the late ‘50s and took to the road in a camper with his wife and nine children before founding the first surf camp in the continental U.S. The Paskowitz clan's nomadic beach existence was recently the subject of Doug Pray's documentary Surfwise.