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‘Pitch Perfect’ writer set to direct film on Chicago improv gurus Del Close, Charna Halpern

Kay Cannon’s movie will focus on the relationship between the late Close, a hard-living visionary, and Halpern, the co-founder of iO Theatre.

Charna Halpern and Del Close were leaders at Chicago’s ImprovOlympic.
iO Theatre

The long crawl toward a movie about Chicago improv guru Del Close has taken a giant step forward with the signing of “Pitch Perfect” writer Kay Cannon as director.

Cannon, who directed last year’s teen comedy “Blockers,” is set to helm “Del and Charna,” focusing on Close’s relationship with Charna Halpern, who enlisted him as a teacher at her ImprovOlympic (now iO Theatre) and built the Chicago improv company around his ideas of heightening and collaboration.

Two former Close students, Rich Talarico (“Key & Peele”) and Alex Fendrich (“Teachers”) are working on the screenplay, Halpern said Monday.

“We are thrilled to bring the story of Del Close and Charna Halpern, two comedic icons to the screen and explore how their evolving relationship impacted the history of comedy and influenced future performers,” Daniel Crown, whose Red Crown Productions is producing the film, told Deadline. “We look forward to partnering with Kay Cannon, whose comedic filmmaking has brought the genre to new heights.”

Halpern said Cannon, “a big feminist,” wants to emphasize Halpern’s importance in steadying Close’s frenzied life and elevating the teachings of the former Second City star, a heavy drug user who died in 1999.

“This is ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ “ Halpern quoted Cannon as saying. “This is the dark and the light.”

No casting has been announced.

IO was a training ground for an illustrious roster of comedy greats including Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Chris Farley, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers.

Cannon, who grew up in Will County and also took classes and did shows at iO, wrote for TV’s “30 Rock” and “The New Girl” and created the 2017 Netflix series “Girlboss.”

Another plan for a Close movie had bubbled up in 2017, when a producing group announced Betty Thomas (“Private Parts”) would direct a project starring Mike Myers as Close, his former teacher. It was to be based on “Guru,” a book by Chicago actor Jeff Griggs about the months he spent driving Close on errands and learning of his history and his worldview.

Myers later dropped out of the film. Producers are continuing to recruit new leads, Second City CEO Andrew Alexander, one of its executive producers, said Monday.