Mike Myers, a student of Del Close who had been set to play the late Chicago improv guru in a movie, has dropped out of the project.
“Now we’re looking at finding the right Del,” Second City owner Andrew Alexander, an executive producer of the film, said Saturday before a roast of George Wendt at the theater.
Betty Thomas, “Del’s” director and another Second City alum who trained under Close, also participated in the roast and said beforehand that she’s in talks with an unidentified major star to take over the role.
“They love it and they want to do it,” she said, “and that’s all I can say.”
Myers, star of the “Wayne’s World,” “Austin Powers” and “Shrek” movies, has been appearing on ABC this summer as host of the “The Gong Show” in the persona of a British comedian named Tommy Maitland.
One star discussed over the years as a candidate to play Close is Bill Murray, another Close student and admirer. The late Harold Ramis, Murray’s “Caddyshack” and “Groundhog Day” director, had looked into making a Close movie and concluded, “I think Bill is the only one who I can imagine playing Del.”
“Del” will depict Close through the eyes of an aspiring Chicago improviser he takes under his wing. The young protege will be played by Alex Sharp, an English actor who won a Tony Award for playing an autistic teenager in Broadway’s “The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time.”
“I made him do an entire audition in, not in a Chicago accent, but the kid he’s playing is from the Midwest,” Thomas said. “I made him do it, and he did it.”
The screenplay by Nick Torokvei is based on the book “Guru,” written by Chicago actor and director Jeff Griggs about the months he spent driving Close on errands and learning of his history and his world view.
Alexander said he hopes for some or all of the film to be shot in Chicago.
Close, considered one of the fathers of Chicago (and all things) improv, mentored a bevy of today’s most successful comedians (and “Saturday Night Live” alumni) including Tina Fey, Dan Aykroyd and the late John Belushi and Chris Farley. At first an actor and director at Second City, he later became the key creative voice at ImprovOlympic (now iO) until his death in 1999.
Close’s longtime artistic partner, iO co-founder Charna Halpern, is pursuing production of a rival script she wrote that covers a wider swath of Close’s life than the brief period focused on in “Del.”