Paul Walter Hauser Explains Why He Had to Play ‘SNL’ Legend Chris Farley

“I love him so much, and I know that I would honor him rather than tell some sort of dark sob story,” the Emmy winner tells TheWrap

A man in a white tux wears glasses and holds his phone in one hand, an Emmy in the other on a stage on the left, standing in front of a microphone. A man on the right sits at a desk, on a phone, appearing dumbfounded.
Paul Walter Hauser and Chris Farley (Getty Images)

Paul Walter Hauser was recently cast to star in Josh Gad’s directorial debut, a biopic of “SNL” great Chris Farley. The late performer was renowned for being part of a generation that helped revitalize the show, as well as starring with fellow “SNL” colleagues in a number of hit comedies, before ultimately dying of a drug overdose in December 1997.

“Chris Farley is definitely my number one of all-time ‘SNL’ cast member, comedic voice,” Hauser said.

He knew that he had to be the one to play Farley.

“I just thought that if they were to make a movie about him, I would want to be the one to do it, because I love him so much, and I know that I would honor him rather than tell some sort of dark sob story,” Hauser said. “And that’s really what we intend to do. This is the same way ‘Richard Jewell’ was a bit of an exoneration victory lap for the man who’s no longer with us.”

The actor describes himself as “a big comedy nerd.”

“I love ‘Saturday Night Live.’ A lot of my favorite comedy in general emanates from ‘Saturday Night Live’ alumni, shows like ‘Documentary Now’ and ‘I Think You Should Leave,’” Hauser explained of his taste. “To me, that’s the height of comedy right now, and I love what those people do.”

Before breaking big, Hauser tried getting on “SNL” as either an actor or writer himself.

“‘Saturday Night Live’ was a dream of mine, to get on the show. I always wanted to be a cast member and I made self-tapes and stuff, and tried to submit writers’ packets through my manager back in the day. But it didn’t really happen, obviously, and I didn’t really get looked at, I don’t think.”

“I’m hoping that I can give Chris Farley the real last word that he deserves and make it something celebratory and fun,” Hauser added. “We’re hoping to show the real side of Chris too — not just him trying to be funny, but what were his hopes and dreams, and what were his relationships like with these newfound comrades jumping into ‘SNL’ with all these young people that would become the voices of a comedy generation?”

He may get a chance to appear on the show after making this film, with Lorne Michaels producing the project and it seeming like a natural fit for Hauser to promote the film on the late-night show.

Playing real people

Hauser’s built a reputation for having a talent playing real people, including in the recent Apple TV+ series “Black Bird” that won him both an Emmy and a Golden Globe.

“I’ve been pretty vocal about the fact that I kind of think that playing biopic characters is a little bit like cheating or bringing note cards to the test,” Hauser explained. “You really have a lot more to work with and work from, and I think you understand the character and what’s expected of it in a more focused, dialed-in manner versus the wildness of fully creating a character from the ground up.”

But that’s not always the case, even for a character based on a real person.

“‘Black Bird,’ there wasn’t really a lot on that guy,” Hauser said. “Larry Hall didn’t have a bunch of footage of him. I had that on ‘I, Tonya.’ I had that on ‘Richard Jewell.’ There was a massive amount of footage that was very helpful and influential. ‘Black Bird’ was more from the ground up.”

Hauser quipped that he was a little uneasy about “Black Bird” being the role that won him his most acclaim to date.

“I don’t know what that says about me, that I embodied that character that believably without footage,” Hauser said. “That’s upsetting, but hopefully speaks to my talent, and not my emotional dysfunction.”

The actor hopes to bring all of those skills to playing “SNL” star Foley, including utilizing the large amounts of footage the comedic performer appeared in over the years.

“I think with Chris Farley, it’s going to be really, really helpful,” Hauser said. “And I think playing biographical characters is really nice, because there’s such a vested interest. People are already looking at it like, well, this is a must-see story because we get to see how these people transform and tell it.”

“Often with a biopic, there’s a lot of diligence due to the screenplay, and the scripts are amazing,” Hauser added. “And they want to do an award season rollout and push it into the autumn and the winter time. And as an actor, that’s very attractive to have that type of support cushion for something you worked so hard on.”

The film is set to be based on the book “The Chris Farley Show,” written by Farley’s brother Tom Farley Jr. and Tanner Colby. Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber are adapting the book.

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