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“Grotto!?!”

Over the last six months, I’ve had four unrelated sources tell me off the record that Robert Downey Jr. was a total lock to star in a Hugh Hefner biopic entitled Playboy. Of course, this was before Iron Man‘s grosses went interstellar. Chicago’s Sun Times now reports that the actor is close to signing on, even though the original director, Brett Ratner, is purportedly no longer attached, but may circle back (I bet.) for producer Brian Grazer.

Would Marvel Studios be cool with Downey Jr. playing a porn magnate? The company recently tossed out the R-rating, so it might be iffy territory. In my view, Tony Stark is not exactly Clark Kent, and this role would only increase Downey’s mainstream visibility. Moreover, Hefner’s story is not mired in smut like a Larry Flynt or a Bob Guccinone–it’s by far the more mainstream rags-to-riches tale. But some people in the know have serious doubts. Is the box office there for this movie? Does Downey need to risk it? Will the film hold relevance in the quickening era of YouPorn and Xtube? They have a point (Playboy is venturing into the gay biz for a reason).

The Sun Times reports that Downey’s people have emphasized that nothing is final until a script and/or director is finalized. As you might expect, there are certain unprecedented benefits to playing this role. We’ll see what happens. Tropic Thunder, which looks to be a huge hit, will only strengthen Downey’s demands and demand.

Discuss: Should Downey take the role or pass? Are you interested in seeing the story of Hugh Hefner?  

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