Mike Fleming

UPDATE: Peter and Bobby Farrelly with Fox will complete the casting on The Three Stooges by the end of next week. At this point, Hank Azaria has emerged as a frontrunner for the role of Moe, the group’s stern disciplinarian and the guy who dishes out the slaps and eye pokes. As for the simpleton Larry, the name I am most often hearing is James Marsden. Marsden worked for Fox as Cyclops in the original X-Men films, but he has played comedy in films like Enchanted and next stars in the Universal/Illumination Entertainment film Hop.

7:31 PM: MadTV alum and CBS’ $#*! My Dad Says star Will Sasso has been cast as Curly in The Three Stooges movie being made at 20th Century Fox and directed by the Farrelly brothers. Sasso did the films Life As We Know It, Best In Show, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Beverly Hills Ninja, and Happy Gilmore, and is currently shooting the lead role in the dramedy The Guys Who Move Furniture. He is repped by APA and D2 Management. The approval of the MGM pre-packaged bankruptcy opened the door for the long-gestating comedy to get made, and Fox took over the project for the Farrellys who are based there. This is the first casting for the comedy scripted by Bobby and Peter Farrelly with Mike Cerrone.

The role of Curly originated with Jerome “Curly” Howard, who suffered a stroke and was succeeded by his brother Samuel (Shemp). After Shemp died suddenly, he was replaced by Joe Besser, who gave way to the vaudeville vet Joe De Rita.

The Farrellys know that casting such iconic roles as The Three Stooges has always been a tall order, but Peter Farrelly told me he was “opening up these roles to the world right now. We’ll make it with the best possible people. Our feeling is that no star is too big to audition and no matter who it is, we’re going to have to see him in the role. This is not The Flintstones. You’ve got to be Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Howard, and that could be a major movie star or an unknown.”

The movie will follow the format of the original shorts that the Stooges made for Columbia Pictures chief Harry Cohn over 24 years. The film will be divided into three segments, each 27 minutes long, which gives the Farrellys the chance to use all three of the signature theme songs that started the classic shorts. The goal is to make a PG film, and still incorporate the physical comedy. “There will be non-stop slapping, more in the tone of Dumb and Dumber than anything else we’ve done,” Farrelly said. “Our goal is 85 minutes of laughs in a film that will be very respectful of who the Stooges were. It’s by far the riskiest project we’ve ever done, without question, but it is also the one closest to our hearts.”

The Three Stooges has been a passion project for Conundrum for over a decade, first at Columbia Pictures, then Warner Bros, and finally MGM and then Fox. Conundrum partner Bradley Thomas will produce with Charles B. Wessler. The film will be exec produced by Earl Benjamin, the gatekeeper of the Stooges estate, and the stepson of Joe DeRita.