David Cronenberg to write and direct Keith Harris biopic

19/02/2012 11:27

Controversial Canadian director David Cronenberg has announced plans for his next major feature, a dramatisation of the life and work of the British ventriloquist and entertainer Keith Harris.


Trooping the Dogmess - The FigBetween them, Cronenberg and Harris produced some of the most thought provoking and disturbing images of the 1980s.

Harris shot to fame in the early 1980s, appearing in several Royal Variety performances and starring in his own "Keith Harris TV Show" which ran till 1990. At the same time, Cronenberg was exploring the dichotomy between body and mind in his breakthrough works "Videodrome" and "The Fly".

"Keith and I have been exploring similar themes for years" explained Cronenberg, "namely tech-induced mutation and the subconscious made flesh. For Harris, the flesh happens to be an incontinent duck, but our central artistic vision remains the same."

Though the film is still in pre-production, Hollywood insiders suspect that the role of Harris may be played Samuel L Jackson. He won an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of another bubble-permed philosopher in 1994's 'Pulp Fiction', so the Harris role is within his scope. Meanwhile Robert DeNiro, a long time admirer of the British ventriloquist, is said to be 'very interested' in the supporting role of Cuddles the Monkey.

Having released a series of critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful horror films in the seventies, 1983 saw Cronenberg gain mainstream acceptance with 'The Dead Zone', based on a Stephen King novel. In the same year, Harris's single 'I Wish I Could Fly' sold over 400'000 copies in the UK - a track which the Canadian auteur is quick to defend. "It's derided as one of the most hated singles of the 1980s, but 'I Wish I Could Fly' is laden with Freudian metaphor - and deserves more considered listening.

"Has anyone asked themselves, for instance, why Orville isn't able to fly? On one level, it's the fact that Keith's forearm is buried deep inside Orville's colon. But it also highlights the parasitic nature of Harris's and Orville's relationship - and by definition, the parasitic dynamic between all ventriloquists and their puppets. My film seeks to explore who is feeding on who, and what Orville's nappy (worn at the point where the duck is penetrated by his master) is hiding."