David Spade, Dana Carvey on Chris Farley Biopic: It’s Complicated

As one might expect, SNL alums David Spade and Dana Carvey have feelings about that upcoming Chris Farley biopic. The two SNL alums were, of course, colleagues and friends of Farley’s, and are understandably protective of his legacy.

“I don’t know how I’m…” Spade says hesitantly in a just-released episode of their Superfly podcast. “[I’m] a little ambivalent about it. I don’t know.”

“I had heard some whispers about this for a long time. I’ve run into this guy Paul,” Spade says of actor Paul Walter Hauser, who is set to star as Farley in the film. “He’s a very nice guy. I think he’s been wanting to do this for a while.”

Carvey voices tentative support for the project, saying In all seriousness, I wish [Hauser] the best. I think it’s great.” But he also makes sure to note the difficulty of portraying someone like Farley. “I think one-offs and charisma— It’s very hard to get used to it in a film.”

Carvey draws comparisons to two notable biopics to illustrate his point. “Even the last Elvis movie, [Austin Butler] did incredible. But you never reach Elvis. It’s impossible… but it was the best I’d seen. The same thing with Will Smith when he played Muhammad Ali. He was absolutely fantastic. But the whole time you’re going, ‘but—’. You can’t do Muhammad Ali.”

Carvey later presses Spade for his thoughts, acknowledging how people often consider the frequent Farley collaborator’s take on all Chris-related matters. “You’re Chris’ right-hand man. Or he was your right-hand man… You guys are partners,” Carvey tells him. “You knew him best.”

“Yes, I somehow turned into the de facto widow,” Spade replies.

“I wish him well,” Spade says of Hauser. “Like you said, it’s very hard to capture the highs and lows, and the greatness, and the just pure likability, and the innocence, and everything that was great about [Farley].”

Carvey agrees: “It’s the stuff between the lines. It’s the way he would look at you when he was going to do a joke… Chris had so many sub-rhythms… There’s a meal to be had there.”

Still, Carvey reiterates his cautious optimism about the project. “I wish this guy the best. To do Chris Farley, there’s so much stuff there—I don’t know, I’ll be curious—I don’t know how you do that.”

Notably, the Farley biopic comes with the stamp of approval from others in Farley’s camp. Revealed last week, the film will be produced by SNL creator Lorne Michaels. The script, to be written by Oscar nominees Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, will be an adaptation of “The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts,” the bestselling 2007 biography that was co-authored by Chris’ brother, Tom Farley Jr., and Tanner Colby. Actor Josh Gad will make his directorial debut.

As Spade alluded to in his comments, Hauser has been pursuing this project for a while. A big Farley admirer himself, Hauser told THR in 2021 that he’d once approached the Farley family about collaborating on a film about the late comedian, but that it ultimately didn’t work out. 

Most important to Spade is that the depiction of Farley remains a positive one: “I would hope it doesn’t just turn into [being] about drugs. I just want it to be the whole thing. Because you could focus… Like [Jason Reitman’s upcoming SNL movie] is focused on the first SNL ever done. And that’s enough for one movie. So with how much he did, I would want it to be more upbeat, hopefully.”

The pair ultimately agree on the direction they would take if they were making the film. “The timeline of the last year or two on SNL into Tommy Boy,” Carvey explains, “is this period of time where Chris was full ‘Chris,’ and it’s all there. And I would focus on that.”

“I agree,” says Spade—who also makes sure to offer a casting prediction or two in the podcast. “If Margot Robbie passes on playing me in the movie, we’re going to wind up with JoJo Siwa.”

Farley joined Saturday Night Live in 1990, and quickly became one of its biggest breakout stars with the physicality of his performances and his never-ending ability to make his co-stars break. Among his most memorable characters were van-down-by-the-river-living motivational speaker Matt Foley, who was created by Bob Odenkirk (with a little help from Christina Applegate).

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