Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet has a more serious project on his plate. The actor is working with HBO on an original movie about the life of silent-era comedian “Fatty” Arbuckle. Based on David A. Yallop’s book, The Day The Laughter Stopped, the film will follow Arbuckle’s life through the first major Hollywood scandal. Stonestreet will play Arbuckle, while HBO is bringing on Kirk Ellis (John Adams) to write the project and Barry Levinson (You Don’t Know Jack) to direct.
Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, a silent film and vaudeville actor, was one of the biggest stars of the early film industry. But after a holiday party, Arbuckle found himself accused of the rape and murder of young actress Virginia Rappe. What resulted was what Ellis describes as “the first trial by media of the 20th century,” as newspaper mogul William Randolf Hearst led a “tabloid campaign” against the actor. After three trails Arbuckle was acquitted of the charges, but his career was destroyed and he was blacklisted in Hollywood.
Stonestreet told New York Magazine that he’s been interested in Arbuckle’s story for some time. “In addition to the fact that I’m from Kansas and he’s from Kansas, I just always found it to be such a fascinating and tragic story,” Said the Modern Family star. “He went from this jolly person who fell down and entertained people into a sexual deviant. It’s a true story people don’t know about, with a twist.”
Stonestreet is currently filming season three of Modern Family, which premieres Sept. 21 on ABC.