"Jackass" prankster Johnny Knoxville, "Saturday Night Live" star Andy Samberg and Australian comic Shane Jacobson are on the shortlist to play Moe, Larry and Curly, respectively, in 20th Century Fox's "Three Stooges," TheWrap has learned from an agency insider.
This would be a major shift in direction for the project, which initially had Benicio del Toro, Sean Penn and Jim Carrey circling the iconic titular roles, though the latter two actors have officially dropped out of the running. It makes sense, however, as not only would Knoxville, Samberg and Jacobson appeal to younger audiences -- there's an entire generation (or two) that's mostly unfamiliar with the Stooges -- but they're also more in line with the spirit of the original slapstick trio.
And though nothing yet is confirmed, advances have been made, representatives have been approached and discussions have taken place, the agency insider said.
20th Century Fox recently took over the long-gestating comedy from MGM, with Peter and Bobby Farrelly on hand to direct from a script they co-wrote with Mike Cerrone. Conundrum partner Bradley Thomas will produce with Charles B. Wessler, while Earl Benjamin, the gatekeeper of the Stooges' estate, will exec produce.
The plan is to divide the PG-rated film into three, 27-minute segments driven by physical comedy, with a start date of March 14.
Peter Farrelly has previously stated that the Stooges could be played by "a major movie star or an unknown," and this trio incorporates both of those possibilities, with Knoxville having propelled "Jackass 3D" to an impressive $117 million domestic gross, while Jacobson is hardly a household word outside of his native Australia.
What's more, the Farrellys have worked with Knoxville before on "The Ringer," which the brothers produced. Knoxville always has seemed like a strong candidate for the role, considering that he and his "Jackass" brethren are the modern-day equivalent of the Stooges. Vanity Fair's profile of Knoxville and his "Jackass 3D" co-stars, in fact, was headlined "The 3D Stooges," and Knoxville appeared in the magazine's photo shoot as Moe (pictured above).
Samberg obviously has a strong comedic background as a "Saturday Night Live" veteran and a member of the Grammy-nominated comedy troupe the Lonely Island. His "SNL" digital shorts have become viral sensations online and he continues to have a growing presence on the big screen.
While his star vehicle "Hot Rod" may be the single strangest studio release I've ever seen, Samberg was a scene-stealer in the hit comedy "I Love You, Man" and he has supporting roles in two upcoming romantic comedies, "Friends With Benefits" and "What's Your Number?"
As for Jacobson, he won raves overseas for his performance in the 2006 mockumentary "Kenny." He began performing at age 10 and started his comedy career at the age of 18. He currently co-hosts the car show "Top Gear Australia."
Knoxville is represented by CAA, while Samberg is repped by UTA and Mosaic. Jacobson is represented by ICM and Shanahan Management in Australia.