Who would make the best big screen Ignatius J. Reilly?



The trailer for Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby adaptation and the news that Zach Galifianakis may be cast as the hero of John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces broke almost at the same time — confirming many people in my Facebook feed haven't read much after high school.

Dunces has never, ever successfully made the big screen leap. Harold Ramis and, more recently (and infamously unplugged), David Gordon Green, tried and failed to adapt Toole's landmark mess. Terry Gilliam said it couldn't be filmed. (Read Kevin Allman's piece on Toole's latest biography in Gambit.)

Last night, Vulture reported that comedian and actor Galifianakis (who starts in the New Orleans-shot The Campaign) has been cast in an adaptation by Flight of the Conchords co-creator and The Muppets director James Bobin for Paramount Pictures. Vulture also says the script is helmed by Phil Johnston, who wrote 2011's Cedar Rapids and the forthcoming Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways, The Descendants) film Nebraska.

Bobin has a deft comic hand, having worked with Sacha Baron Cohen in developing Da Ali G Show and Cohen's characters, as well as the very good Conchords. The Muppets elevated the timeless Jim Henson universe into an increasingly cynical and loud multiplex.

The problem is the source material: can it be done?

It'll be a shame if this all turns out to be rumor, or continues a track record of the book's abandoned film adaptations (a Will Ferrell, Lily Tomlin and Paul Rudd starring, Gordon Green-directing 2005 project would've ruled). Galifianakis is a great casting decision — if you aren't privy to his chops, look for his brief but perfect role in Up in the Air, and in the small sci-fi comedy Visioneers. But if Galifianakis isn't hired, I throw an unsolicited vote behind New Orleans-born comic Sean Patton, a Belushi-esque figure in the New York comedy scene. (Ramis originally wanted Belushi for the Ignatius role, before his death.) Reilly has been played by John "Spud" McConnell on stage, but I don't know if he's a good fit for the big screen.

My other choice: John C. Reilly. If you haven't seen his Check It Out! With Dr. Steve Brule, you should. He can throw himself into any role, from bonkers public access host to porn star to Scorsese muse, plus he's got that whole lumpy look about him.

Who are your picks?

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