There's no doubt about it: casting choices for the Three Stooges remake have definitely gone downhill. In retrospect, the project was nuts from the start. Why would two different studios--Warner Bros. in 2000 and MGM in 2007--greenlight a pricey Three Stooges movie 75 years after the comedy team's popularity peaked? Why did the Farrelly brothers devote eleven years of labor to the project? And most of all, why did the brothers insist on trying to cast mopey, neurotic, and expensive Oscar winners--think Sean Penn and Russell Crowe--in the lead roles?
That said, it definitely feels like a step down now that Will Sasso and (maybe) Johnny Knoxville are reportedly close to deals to play Curly and Moe. Comedians who cut their teeth on Mad TV and Jackass are probably what the project requires. We're already nostalgic, though, for the decade Hollywood spent trying--and failing--to give these stooges some genuine class (step one on that project had to be no more fighting people in tuxedos for no reason). Below the multimedia demonstration of what the original, brawl-filled Stooges stuff looked like, we bring you a recap of the casting saga for the three main characters:
"The angriest and most violent Stooge," according to The New Yorker's Ian Parker, who said in 2004 the character was being tailored for Russell Crowe. Crowe's reputation as one of Hollywood's angrier and more violent film stars (both on screen and off), and his enthusiasm made the choice seem easy. After a layoff to direct The Heartbreak Kid, the directors returned to the project in 2009 and in "one of the most bizarre casting revelations in recent Hollywood memory" (or at least the memories of people who work at MTV News) announced Benicio Del Toro would play the role.
Also included in that 2009 casting revelation was news that Sean Penn, a recent Oscar winner for Milk, would be playing the curly-haired Larry. In typical Penn fashion, there was trouble (reportedly involving ex-wife Robin Wright), and the actor dropped out and was replaced by Paul Giamatti, which everyone except Paul Giamatti knew about. Penn returned a month later, but has since departed once again. (This is absolutely something that would happen to Larry.) As recently as February, the Farrellys told the Boston Herald that Woody Harrelson, Justin Timberlake, and Larry David were all being considered for the role, the very definition of casting a wide net. After rewatching this clip, we cast our vote for Harrelson.
Jim Carrey pledged to put on 40 pounds in order to faithfully portray the pudgiest stooge. He never made it that far, bolting the project for good in November. "I think [the movie] is dead," he explained cryptically to MTV. "It's dead at least with me." With the rumored new additions, the film doesn't seem like it will be playing harps with angels up in heaven (or development hell) any time soon.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.