Joaquin Phoenix is set to star in director Gus Van Sant‘s biopic about the life of quadriplegic cartoonist John Callahan. This is a powerful story, and I think Phoenix and Van Sant are the right people for the job to tell it.
Callahan became an alcoholic at the age of 12, a drug abuser in his mid-teens and a quadriplegic at 21 after being involved 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.
Yeah, his life starts out as a really depressing downer, but it turns into an inspirational story. Van Sant, who directed films such as Good Will Hunting, Milk, and most recently, The Sea of Trees, has been trying to get this film project off the ground since the early 2000s.
Robin Williams was also a big fan of the artist and tried to get a movie made back in the ’90s based on Callahan’s book, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot. I imagine this book will serve as inspiration for Van Sant’s film, and this is the description of it:
Is it possible to find humor — corrosive, taboo-shattering, laugh-till-you-cry humor — in the story of a 38-year-old- cartoonist who’s both a quadriplegic and a recovering alcoholic? The answer is yes, if the cartoonist is John Callahan — whose infamous work has graced the pages of Omni, Penthouse, and The New Yorker — and if he’s telling it in his own words and pictures. But Callahan’s uncensored account of his troubled — and sometimes impossible — life is also genuinely inspiring. Without self-pity or self-righteousness, this liberating book tells us how a quadriplegic with a healthy libido has sex, what it’s like to live in the exitless maze of the welfare system, where a cartoonist finds his comedy, and how a man with no reason to believe in anything discovers his own brand of faith.
This film will mark Van Sant and Phoenix’s first time working together since the actor’s breakout performance in 1995’s To Die For.