What Would It Take to Make Jason Segel an Acceptable David Foster Wallace?


As The Awl pointed out, Twitter had a mini-explosion today when the news broke that Jason Segel will be playing David Foster Wallace opposite Jesse Eisenberg’s David Lipsky in a movie version of Lipsky’s Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip With David Foster Wallace. The reasons cited for the freakout tend to vary: some think that a guy who starred in and wrote the Muppets’ latest film doesn’t have any business playing the Infinite Jest author (we call those people snobs); others fall into the “They don’t really look anything alike” camp; and then there are those who would throw up their hands and shriek “Too soon!” in response to a film coming out about an author whose suicide is still very fresh in our minds.

The movie — titled The End of the Tour — seems destined to make people angry in this James Franco era of actors trying extra hard to prove their intelligence and artistic talent, as the movie industry scratches around looking for fresh film ideas like a junkie seeking one more fix. But the truth is, we’ve been always been sensitive about projects like this, since movies about literary figures and adaptations of our favorite books have burned us so many times in the past. That’s understandable. At the same time, I still think it’s possible that Segel, despite being best known for his comedic roles, could make a great Wallace and even that The End of the Tour could end up being a good film — if a few things happen.

Jason Segel must rock a bandana like this. If Jason Segel can’t pull this off, the entire film is worthless. If the 6’4” Segel can’t put a square of fabric on his head and convince a viewer as picky as Wallace — a writer who so famously obsessed over every little detail — himself that he’s one of Generation X’s greatest writers, nothing else is going to matter.

Aside from that, well, how will The End of the Tour actually work? Will it be some strange My Dinner With Andre type of affair, two writers engaged in an ongoing mental duel as they travel across the country? Or will director James Ponsoldt try and make it into some sort of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas story? As far as I’m concerned, avoiding the latter in favor of a slow and strange journey that doesn’t closely resemble any of these forerunners would be the best course of action, because if The End of the Tour is going to do Wallace justice, the one thing it will have to be is unique.