Richard Linklater to write and direct a Bill Hicks biopic for Focus

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

"See, I think drugs have done some good things for us, I really do. And if you don't believe drugs have done good things for us, do me a favor – go home tonight and take all your albums, all your tapes, and all your CDs and burn 'em. Cause you know what? The musicians who've made all that great music that's enhanced your lives throughout the years … rrrrrrrrrrrrreal fucking high on drugs"

– Bill Hicks

Quick, someone hand me a squidgy, because I can barely believe my third eye at the sight of this news. Yesterday, Collider reported that Oscar-nominated filmmaker Richard Linklater (DAZED AND CONFUSED, A SCANNER DARKLY) is readying a biopic for Focus Features centered on the life and times of Bill Hicks – otherwise known as my favorite comedian of all time. Born in 1961 in Valdosta, Georgia, Hicks was raised as a Southern Baptist, much to his discontent. The controversial comedian began making a name for himself while playing clubs in Texas during the 1970s, then rose through the ranks as an act to watch throughout the 1980s. Later in life, Hicks was featured on the mind-expanding track "Third Eye" by the progressive metal band Tool. Before Hicks passed away after a crippling battle with pancreatic cancer, he was on course to tour with the band as an opening act, though the arrangement never came to pass.

While speaking with Marc Maron for the WTF with Marc Maron podcast, Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan revealed to the radio personality that Hicks would have been a dream opener for the psychedelic rock show:

"We were going to put together a tour. It was still when the band was young and still kind of up and coming, way before Aenima, we were still at that level where we could probably pull something like that off… We were trying to figure out what we were going to do. We were trying to figure out how we would work it in to where it would somehow be accepted in that forum. Even then, it was hard for us to be accepted. We would play somewhere and we’d have these moshing skinheads dudes saying ‘play faster,’ and we’d be like “listen slower.” I don’t know, this is what we’re doing. You came here to see us, I’m not sure why I’m supposed to give you what you want… Bill and I discussed this. It was early enough on in our career that we think we could at least weed out the people that didn’t want to see that, somehow resonate on that level," Keenan told Maron, back in 2013.

In 2009, Hicks was the focus of a documentary titled AMERICAN: THE BILL HICKS STORY. Directed by Matt Harlock (TOLL, DEEP CLEAN) and Paul Thomas the pic was presented as a photo-animation project, and featured narration by ten individuals who were close to the late comedy sensation.

“There’s not quite any others like him. They don’t speak in the same voice. You’d think people would take that torch and go with it, but it’s a rare combination of that kind of intelligence, mysticism, political, you know… his politics, his angle, it’s pretty unique,” Linklater told Collider. “I go through my life all the time… everything that’s going on in our culture, I always think, what would Bill Hicks be doing? You just miss him.”

For those of you who've yet to experience Hick's comedy, I must warn you that it's not for the faint of heart. In my time with Hicks, I've found his dark and biting takes on politics, drug use, and the freedom of expression to be as honest and hilarious as it gets. Moreso, his comedy has aged well throughout the years, with many of his observations still ringing true during today's tumultuous political climate. If you're looking to sample some of his comedic wares, I highly recommend his albums Relentless, followed by Arizona Bay.

Are you a fan of Hicks? Who do you think should play him in Linklater's biopic? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.


About the Author

Born and raised in New York, then immigrated to Canada, Steve Seigh has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. He started with Ink & Pixel, a column celebrating the magic and evolution of animation, before launching the companion YouTube series Animation Movies Revisited. He's also the host of the Talking Comics Podcast, a personality-driven audio show focusing on comic books, film, music, and more. You'll rarely catch him without headphones on his head and pancakes on his breath.