Oct 8, 2019
Scenarios For The Inevitable Rob Ford Biopic
Rob Ford is dead. His story is finished: he has reached the peak scandal level afforded by his office. Rob Ford drinks vodka in the woods and smokes crack on camera and darkness has descended on Toronto. There is nowhere to go and there are no jokes left to make. It’s done. He would need to murder a man in low-earth orbit to top himself. No longer is it a mere novelty that a man who looks like Chris Farley can be so unrepentantly evil yet walk the earth a free man.
It is possible for him to ride the publicity afforded any dangerous person in the public eye and host a talk show on a fledgling cable channel. But that is not a story. (Besides, John McEnroe’s talk show only lasted six months.) It is certain he will get a book deal. Now that he has admitted to everything and threatened to murder everyone he will ever likely threaten to murder, his story is told. Anything else is anticlimax. Rob Ford is dead. Now he belongs to the ages.
All that’s left to do is make the movie. Rob Ford is a desperately evil man, higher on his notoriety and lovable late night talk show whipping boy status than he ever was on crack cocaine. He’s cinematically evil, and his story begs to be tackled by a non-judgmental auteur and a well-traveled character actor. But who should make this movie? What will the finished work look like?
The Coen Brothers: Desperate Little Man
Forget the Coens. They’ll wait until Ford dies in 6 or 7 years and fictionalize his story beyond all recognition. They’ll set it in the 1960s and have the film revolve, inexplicably, around a bank heist. And they’ll have it star, obviously, anybody who’s available and has ever been shortlisted for a Confederacy of Dunces adaptation (John Goodman). They’ll name it after a truncated prewar folk song. Let’s go with “Desperate Little Man.” There, done.
Robert Redford: The Candidate II
Have Robert Redford make this story as a sequel to “The Candidate.” Direct it, write it, and star in it. Go after those legacy Oscars. Gain some weight and take off the toupee. Only downside is he’d want to set the thing in Southern California.
Terrence Malick: The Way We Live Now
Malick opens his biopic with a wide shot of rolling hills. Linger on wind knocking wheat back and forth, with not a human being to be seen until Rob Ford (Sam Shepard) enters the frame, ascending above a distant horizon. Cut to the streets of Toronto, entirely devoid of humans. Study the streets and the storefronts and the skyline. Spend a few minutes doing this.
Cut to an undecorated quote, read by Martin Sheen.
“A man may be in as just possession of truth as of a city, and yet be forced to surrender.” – Sir Thomas Brown (1605-1682).
Cut back to the wheat field, right where Malick left it. Rob Ford walks all the way to the foreground of the frame and sits down on a rock. He pulls out a crack pipe. Examines it. Examines the sky. Examines a butane torch. Smokes for awhile.
This biopic would be 3 hours long and have between 12 and 17 minutes of dialogue. The director’s cut would have none whatsoever.
Cameron Crowe: Nothing Can Hurt Me
You may be asking “but isn’t ‘Nothing Can Hurt Me’ already the title of a feature length documentary about power pop legends Big Star?” Exactly.
Rob Ford is played by dead ringer Kevin Farley. Farley can’t act, but never mind that. A good director can shoot around bad acting. Anyway, Rob Ford mostly shades the background here. He goes about his spectacular descent towards evil in the background of a narrative about his aide, played by Chris Pine. It’s a story about the struggle to maintain innocence and idealism. Pine plays a rich kid who threw it all away to join Occupy Toronto but has since sold out to work as Ford’s aide and stumbles backward into love with a fellow conservative aide. (This is the only Ford biopic that doesn’t end in the man’s death.)
The last scene of the film has Pine rediscovering his identity and resigning. Ford is so moved that he puts pen to paper and hands in his own resignation. He leaves his office, throws away his crack pipe, and walks through a park as the autumn wind blows. The scene is scored to Robert Plant & Alison Krauss’ contemplative cover of “Killing the Blues.”
Paul Thomas Anderson: The Prince
First scene. The Toronto skyline as seen through the glass door of a high rise apartment. In the unfocused background, we see a large figure enter. No sound at all. The camera slowly shifts focus to the bedroom as reflected by the glass door. There stands Rob Ford (Philip Seymour Hoffman). He is completely nude and we see everything. He just stands there, expressionless. His skin is desperately pale, shaded erratically by sickly red blotches. Anderson lingers on this image for 2 solid minutes. Rob Ford then produces a crack pipe from off camera and lights it. Silent cut to the title screen. The Prince. (In interviews, Anderson will be silent on the issue of whether the protagonist, who is never named, is actually Rob Ford. He will fervently deny that the title is a Machiavelli reference.)
Cut back to the hotel. A still-nude Rob Ford runs through the open glass door and onto the balcony with an old Dell computer tower, the kind you only see in administrative buildings. He throws it off, panting and coughing and almost beatboxing inventive strings of profanity.
A later scene shows an extremely drunk Ford some years earlier, the night after being elected. He’s driving home, through a suburban back street, in a battered Jeep. In his drunkenness he rolls it over, extracts his crack pipe from the glove compartment, removes the license plate, tucks it in his trousers, and runs away as the Jeep burns.
The film ends at a carnival. Ford is doing a public appearance, clutching some cotton candy. It seems innocent for a second before he ducks behind a popcorn machine and pounds a pint of Smirnoff and clumsily does a bump off a car key. As he gets drunker, the camera gets shakier. The focus gets softer until it’s reduced to flashes and soft streaks of reds and pinks. The crowd noise starts getting louder and louder and louder. It gets so loud that it’s literally painful.
Ford starts to think someone’s following him. An assassin sent by his estranged drug dealer. He staggers through a fog of red and pink and oblivious civilians. He steals his bodyguard’s motorcycle keys and jets off. The crowd noise reduces to nothing. The camera regains focus and stability and Ford starts driving toward a convenience store. A low bass rattle starts to dominate the mix and he crashes into the wall, immediately falling over dead. The camera observes this coldly, from great distance. Ford’s body lies flat on the ground. After about 30 seconds, a police siren briefly starts to sound. Immediate cut to credits.
David Gordon Green: The Righteous Path
This is the winner. This is the one that needs to be made. Anderson could make a great movie about Rob Ford, but he’s spent his whole career doing varying degrees of that. Corrupted power, addiction, pathology, liars – he’s played that hand before.
People underestimate David Gordon Green. “Eastbound & Down” is the most harrowing comedy on television. The study of a psychotic man drunk on power and constantly in a cycle of building himself up just to destroy everything he loves, and Danny McBride plays this dynamic better than anybody. He understands that it’s funny to see a man do blow before a children’s party, and how the humor of this is a temporary joy that precedes unflinching existential horror and pain. He’s the perfect candidate to play Rob Ford. It could define his career.
There barely needs to be a script for a Green/McBride Rob Ford biopic. They only need to show what we’ve already seen. Have Danny McBride shave off the mullet and gain a hundred pounds. Show him binging at a McDonald’s and staggering into the woods with a fifth of vodka. Show him pathetically denying his drug abuse. Show him going on that drunken Southern Gothic rampage where he literally says “I need fucking 10 minutes to make sure he’s dead.”
However, a simple confession and retreat into obscurity isn’t a big enough ending for Green and McBride. Let’s say that Rob Ford is at rock bottom. He’s threatened, on camera, to murder people. His scandals have progressed beyond any point of forgiveness. It seems only death is at hand as he sits down in his kitchen. He drinks beyond his emotional pain threshold and loses comprehension of where he is. He’s drenched in sweat and contemplating his crack pipe. A song is playing: “The Righteous Path,” by the Drive-By Truckers.
He pulls out his lighter and passes out. The lighter hits the carpet. Fire starts to spread through the kitchen as Rob Ford sleeps. Fire engulfs Rob Ford from head to toe. Roll the credits.