Jason Segel as David Foster Wallace should be pretty good (damn, I hope)

The Black List, which is an annual (since 2005) list of Hollywood’s best as-of-yet-unproduced screenplays, is now out. There are some good things from some big names — i.e. Leo DiCaprio producing a movie about the creator of Calvin and Hobbes — and then some weird-sounding shit from some current no-names (one is about an “R-rated talking car from the 1980s”). Probably the most interesting thing, from my standpoint, is this Jason Segel movie with Jesse Eisenberg about the life of David Foster Wallace. It’s going to be called The End of the Tour and be based on the book Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself (good review and context here), which in and of itself was supposed to be a five-day tour with Foster Wallace and a Rolling Stone reporter. The article got cut from the magazine. In the movie, Segel is Wallace and Eisenberg is the reporter. The director attached is the guy behind The Spectacular Now, which is a pretty strong film in its own right.

It’s kind of ironic that a magazine article getting cut led to a book which is now leading (hopefully) to a movie, because that seems the inverse of the process that should happen, but this seems exciting. For a long time I liked to tell myself that I look like Segel (not even remotely is that true) and that I can be as funny as him (again, not even within an iota of the truth), but eventually I settled on, “There are, extremely periodically, some comparisons.” Seeing him as a tortured soul should be interesting, although in almost all his comedic movies minus maybe the Knocked Up trilogy, he has a period where he’s depressed or freaking out. He’s normally playing it for comedy, but that might work here too. I saw Jesse Eisenberg on a subway once. I thought he was good in The Social Network, but honestly better in Now You See Me. I have no doubt he can lay on the drama pretty thick if need be as the reporter here.

I actually did read the entirety of Infinite Jest; this movie is set at the end of the tour (hence the title) following the release of that book. I believe it goes from Normal, IL to Chicago, IL to Minneapolis, MN and possibly to Boston, MA for a stretch (that section involves halfway houses). If you’ve never read Infinite Jest, you can start with this review, then realize Wallace was always trying to surpass that book. That might have been the root of his eventual suicide, which is depressing. What isn’t depressing is his overall contributions to writing of all scope: check out this article he wrote on the evolution of the lobster, which is still one of the better pieces of pseudo-food journalism ever produced.

I’m not sure the movie being produced here will have enough drama to sustain audiences or pop a good box office, but it could be a solid, if more depressing, version of The Spectacular Now and I think most Wallace denizens would be happy. Segel probably isn’t their first choice (he does play Marshall Erickson on a sitcom you could see Wallace kind of hating), but I think he’ll do a solid job. Eisenberg can be grating, but he is a good actor. Hopefully this one does get made. And hell, ya know, at least it’s not about R-Rated cars.

Ted Bauer