To the slim canon of movies about cartoonists (Crumb, Zodiac, Monkeybone) we can now add He Won’t Get Far on Foot, starring Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara and Jonah Hill and directed by Gus Van Sant.
Phoenix stars as the late quadriplegic cartoonist John Callahan, and the title comes from his best known comic. The film will debut later this month at Sundance:
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot is a traditional Sundance selection through and through. The story follows John Callahan (Phoenix), who is an alcoholic whose only joy comes from drawing comic strips in the funny pages. His drinking has left him a shell of a man, but his girlfriend (Rooney Mara) and AA buddy (Jonah Hill) will try to get him back on the right foot. It should be mentioned that in addition to being an alcoholic, Callahan is also paralyzed which can’t make life all too easy in the first place. The project has been in the works for over twenty years and the late Robin Williams was attached for quite a while, but they just couldn’t get it made. Now we’ll get to see how Phoenix does in this performance.
Callahan was big in the 90s with a weekly comic in Willamette Week, and like his friend Gary Larsen, his work paired simple line drawings (Callahan clutched his pen with both hands) with dark and acerbic humor that was considered highly politicaly incorrect when that term was first invented. He died in 2010.
With his struggles with alcohol and his injury and strong personality, Callahan seems like a strong subject for an absorbing film.
The trailer has just been released and the film will get a wider release in May.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.