Many people today may ask 'who?' when the name Fatty Arbuckle is brought up, but HBO is planning to adapt the book The Day the Laughter Stopped with Modern Family actor Eric Stonestreet portraying Arbuckle.
Adapted from the David A. Yallop book of the same name, the biopic deals with Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle's fall from being one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood to being considered a public disgrace - following his alleged involvement in the rape and murder of actress Virginia Rappe.
The Day The Laughter Stopped deals mostly with the aftermath of the alleged crime, and how it destroyed Arbuckle's career – despite his acquittal at three separate trials.
Unfortunately for Arbuckle, he was a victim of the power of the media, and its ability to turn salacious crimes into a national obsession. In the fallout of the crime and the subsequent accusations of Arbuckle's involvement, Paramount pictures, who had Arbuckle under contract at the time, forbade the release of three completed films made by the comedy star – holding off on their release willingly for fear of governmental involvement should they fail to do so.
To make matters worse, Arbuckle became public enemy no. 1 in the eyes of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. The tabloid style journalism with which he attacked Arbuckle largely contributed to the actor's inability to ever overcome the accusations.
Because of prohibition, and the country's political leanings at the time, The Day The Laughter Stopped will have a lot in common with HBO's prohibition drama Boardwalk Empire, so expect some cross-marketing when Laughter is ready to air.
The title of both the book and upcoming film may sound like a bad joke, but it actually originated with Buster Keaton, who once commented on Arbuckle’s troubles. Keaton stated:
“But one day in September, 1921, all of the laughter stopped. Overnight what had been innocent fun was suddenly being denounced as ‘another Hollywood drunken orgy’ or ‘one more shocking example of sex depravity.’ The day our laughter stopped was the day that Roscoe Arbuckle was accused of having caused the death of Virginia Rappe.”
The talent behind the camera should be well known to HBO and film viewers alike. The project is set to be written by John Adams scribe Kirk Ellis and helmed by Academy Award-winning director Barry Levinson (Rain Man, You Don't Know Jack).
Reportedly, Stonestreet has been looking to play Arbuckle since the late 1990s – and thankfully, the production of Laughter came around at the height of Stonestreet’s career. According to the actor, he took no chances when meeting with producers, and had two makeup artists transform him into Arbuckle.
"I thought it was important for them to see that I could transform, especially since Cam is such a specific character. [The photos were] an important asset; they saw that I could disappear into character."
Considering the subject matter, and talent involved, expect The Day The Laughter Stopped to be a major contender at the Emmys and Golden Globes - and perhaps we will see Stonestreet pick up another Emmy to go with the one he already earned for Modern Family.
Expect more news on The Day The Laughter Stopped as it nears production.