The biggest non-mermaid-based movie to hit theaters this weekend is The Machine, starring frequently topless stand-up comedian Bert Kreischer as himself and Star Wars legend Mark Hamill as his dad, both of whom end up embroiled in an elaborate plot involving villainous Russians that Kreischer angered in his youth.
Of course, this isn’t the first attempt to make a movie about a fictionalized version of Bert Kreischer. Long before The Machine, Kreischer was famously the subject of a 1997 Rolling Stone profile that named the future comedian/sixth-year Florida State University student the “#1 Party Animal in the Country.” And after launching his stand-up career, Kreischer was very quickly “discovered” by Will Smith, who gave the young comic a development deal.
The Rolling Stone article, meanwhile, had been optioned to be a movie, weirdly enough, by a company run by Oliver Stone. According to Kreischer, “a bunch of people submitted scripts” based on his “party animal” persona. With Smith now in Kreischer’s camp, he suggested that the comedian needed to star in the movie, or else the project should probably die. As Kreischer recalled, “Will Smith’s like, ‘Either he plays himself, or you guys gotta kill this option.’”
This obviously didn’t happen, and once the option expired, one of the screenplays that was submitted was allegedly recycled by National Lampoon. Kreischer maintains that “they changed my name, keep my friend’s name in it, and that becomes the movie Van Wilder.”
Which, we probably don’t have to point out, starred Ryan Reynolds, not Kreischer.
“My agents, managers, they all wanted to sue when the movie came out,” explained Kreischer. The idea was dropped when one of his less litigious managers told him: “There’s two types of people in this business, Bert. There’s people that work and people that sue. Which one do you want to be?”
So, had producers taken Will Smith’s advice, there would have been no Van Wilder as we know it, or arguably Ryan Reynolds either. Still, his suggestion that Kreischer should play himself in a major motion picture has now been fulfilled, albeit two decades later.
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