Jay Leno Has Joined The Cast Of The Brian Epstein Biopic, Midas Man

Jay Leno, the former host of NBC's "The Tonight Show," has signed on to play another late-night talk show host, Ed Sullivan, in "Midas Man," an upcoming biopic about Beatles manager Brian Epstein. Leno has numerous film credits to his name, but he usually plays himself or does voice work in animated movies. So the Sullivan role marks something of a departure for him, even if it's very much in the wheelhouse of his old job.

The AV Club reports that "Midas Man" is already in production, after a hiatus that saw director Sara Sugarman ("Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen") replace Jonas Akerlund ("Lords of Chaos"). The cast includes Jacob Fortune-Lloyd ("The Queen's Gambit") as Epstein, as well as Emily Watson, Eddie Marsan, Lukas Gage, Rosie Day, and Bill Milner. 

Epstein is often known as the "Fifth Beatle" and was instrumental in building the Fab Four's brand while guiding them through their ascendancy to pop stardom in the 1960s. He died in 1967, two years before the band broke up, and John Lennon himself cited his passing as the beginning of the end for the Beatles.

The significance of Leno's "Midas Man" role (which could just be a cameo) is that "The Ed Sullivan Show" is where the Beatles made their stateside debut, in mop tops and matching suits that were part of the image Epstein helped craft for them. They first performed on the show on February 9, 1964, bringing Beatlemania and the British Invasion to American audiences with the songs "All My Loving," "Till There Was You," "She Loves You," "I Saw Her Standing There," and "I Want To Hold Your Hand."

The Ghost of Ed Sullivan

"The Ed Sullivan Show" was filmed in the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City, which later became the venue for Leno's main competition, "Late Night with David Letterman." The conflict between Letterman and Leno over who would succeed Johnny Carson as the host of "The Tonight Show" in the 1990s is the stuff of showbiz legend and even became the subject of an HBO movie, "The Late Shift." In the 2010s, a similar conflict would brew between Leno and Conan O'Brien when Leno maneuvered to take the show back after O'Brien inherited it.

This year, Conan retired from late-night television, and Letterman has long since grown a white beard and moved on to his Netflix show, "My Next Guest Needs No Introduction." Leno, meanwhile, has been laboring away on reality TV on "Jay Leno's Garage," while Jimmy Fallon has taken over as the host of "The Tonight Show."

As a viewer who was partial to Letterman and Conan — and even went to see their shows in Manhattan — I wasn't so much a fan of Leno in his day. However, with a little makeup and hairstyling, I could see him passing for Sullivan, who pioneered the sort of the show that Leno, Letterman, Conan, and Fallon would host.

"Midas Man" is currently in production.