Semi-Autobiographical Film Based On Screenwriter’s Last Interview With ‘Fantasy Island’ Star Hervé Villechaize & His Suicide Shortly Thereafter
James McAvoy certainly has more than a few options for films. The star of the upcoming “X-Men: First Class” will be filming the British crime thriller “Welcome to the Punch” this summer and is being courted by Joe Wright for “Anna Karenina” which will shoot this fall. But he’s now eyeing another project that has been generating some heat among young actors around town.
We’re told that the script is out to McAvoy for “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” director Sacha Gervasi‘s feature-length follow-up, “My Dinner With Hervé.” The actor is one of a handful also interested, but we’re told he’ll be reading soon and a decision on a lead should be locked down shortly. The film revolves around the last days of Hervé Villechaize, aka Tattoo — the famous dwarf on TV’s “Fantasy Island.” Written by and based on Gervasi’s true-life experiences, ‘Herve’ is both personal and semi-autobiographical — Gervasi was actually the last journalist to interview Villechaize before he committed suicide in 1993. In fact, after essentially telling Gervasi his life story for a magazine feature profile piece and dredging up a lot of his painful past and upbringing, Villechaize killed himself just a few days later.
The writer/filmmaker said a while back, “Herve wasn’t just a pop culture icon; he was one of the most charming, cultured and dangerous people I’ve ever met. His is the story of a unique misfit trying to find his place in the world.”
“It’s a dinner interview as he flashes back on his life,” Gervasi explained in a separate interview about the project and its planned narrative structure. And having read the script — or at least an early version of it — that’s pretty much the case. In the drama, Gervasi (to be played by the soon-to-be cast lead) is a journo sent on assignment from the U.K. to interview a famous U.S. writer, but then a rival hack steals his assignment and then the embittered writer has to instead interview what is then a very washed-up and in very poor health Villechaize. The relationship is adversarial and Villechaize — as Gervasi notes in the aforementioned quote — is dangerous, unhinged and yet charming, affable and smart. Through the course of their dinner interview the diminutive actor reflects back on life and the journo begins to discover a newfound appreciation and respect for the actor’s painful life experiences.
A quick bit of trivia: Ryan Gosling had been eyeing the film. He confirmed to us during press rounds for “Blue Valentine” last year that he had been in discussions for the film, but has since moved on. A new draft of the script has just been delivered and the film sounds like it’s going to be coming together very shortly. Writer Steven Zaillian and Mandate Pictures are producing through their co-venture Film Rites with Garrett Basch.