It can be hard to get overly excited about a project that is just in its most nascent stage of development — a lot can change, it’s a long way off from being seen, and it might not even happen at all. But then you get something like this John Callahan biopic, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, with Gus Van Sant directing and Joaquin Phoenix attached to star you start to think … yeah, ok, you’ve sold me already. I’m hyped.
Van Sant and Joaquin Phoenix first collaborated way back in 1995 on the movie To Die For, which is largely regarded as Phoenix’s break-out role. It’s worth noting that Van Sant had previously worked with Joaquin’s brother River Phoenix on My Own Private Idaho (River then died in 1993 and no, I’m kinda still not over it. The Natalie Merchant song “River” really sums it up).
Now, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Van Sant and Joaquin Phoenix are teaming up again for a biopic of quadriplegic cartoonist Joe Callahan. If you aren’t familiar with him, THR explains Callahan’s backstory in brief, saying:
Callahan became an alcoholic at the age of 12, a drug abuser in his mid-teens, and at 21, a quadriplegic after being in a car accident after a day of drinking. He managed to rebuild his life to become an envelope-pushing cartoonist, learning to use both hands to draw, for example, and also reconciling with members of his family.
From my limited knowledge of Callahan, Phoenix seems like a great choice to embody the cartoonist, not only because of his commitment to transforming fully for his roles, but also because he has a natural ability to be both snarky and full of pathos.
The project has long been something Van Sant has wanted to pursue, but his attempts in the early 2000s fell apart. Only a few years before, Robin Williams had a similarly failed attempted to bring Callahan’s book to screen, Will the Real John Callahan Please Stand Up? (which he had provided the intro for), and had even planned to star in the production. Callahan died in 2010, but it seems like this long-awaited project is finally going to get its day.