OLD TOWN — A long-rumored biopic of Second City guiding light Del Close is getting the green light thanks to Mike Myers coming onboard.
The Second City announced Thursday that its Harold Ramis Film School was joining with Covert Media to make the film "Del," with shooting to begin as soon as April and release set for this fall.
Although he later split with Second City head Bernie Sahlins over whether writing or improvisation should be ascendant in the final comic product, even Second City calls Close "the father of improvisational comedy."
Close was a Second City trouper in the early '60s before being fired in 1965 for what his Internet Movie Database biography labeled as "major substance-abuse problems." Moving to San Francisco, he naturally gravitated to author Ken Kesey's acid-fueled Merry Pranksters and did light shows for the Grateful Dead.
According to the comedy club, "After years of touring with improv troupes and the Grateful Dead, Del Close returned to his hometown of Chicago in 1972 to direct and perform with iconic comedy theater, The Second City." He was a major figure in its '70s heyday that produced John Belushi, Bill Murray, George Wendt and Shelley Long, among others.
After his return to Chicago, where he put an indelible stamp on the Second City, Close went on to serve as "house metaphysician" at NBC's "Saturday Night Live" in the early '80s. He is credited with directly influencing a number of the era's top comedians, including Myers, Belushi, Murray, Chris Farley, Dan Aykroyd and Tina Fey.
After splitting with Sahlins and Second City, according to the troupe, Close spent his last decades teaching improv at Yes and Productions and the ImprovOlympic Theater before his death in 1999. He wanted his skull donated to the Goodman Theatre so he could play Yorick in "Hamlet" in perpetuity, and although a skull claiming to be Close's was donated to the theater, it was later debunked that it actually belonged to him.
"I am thrilled we are able to tell the story of this mercurial genius," said Second City owner Andrew Alexander. "He forced our actors to work at the top of their intelligence and influenced a generation of talent."
Myers came out of the Toronto Second City to star at "Saturday Night Live," converting that into the popular "Wayne's World" and "Austin Powers" film franchises.
"Mike Myers is a comedy genius and the perfect actor to inhabit this complicated, funny, poignant character," said Covert Media Chief Executive Officer Paul Hanson. "A pioneer of his craft, Close has passed his knowledge of humor and improv to the group of comedians that everyone knows today, and this hilarious script examines that intimate relationship with his students that has made them so successful."
The shooting script, by Nick Torokvei, concerns an aspiring comedian taken under the wing of Close.
Betty Thomas, a Chicago Second City alumna and Close protege who went on to star in the NBC TV series "Hill Street Blues" before becoming a director, has been placed in charge of the production.