Just this week, the U.S. saw the reissue of Eat Drink Man Woman, one of Ang Lee’s earlier, Mandarin-language productions. 1994 seems more like 20 million years ago than 20, as Lee’s almost fully transitioned out of foreign-language features (his last Chinese film was 2007’s epic and erotic Lust, Caustion) and into gorgeous and deeply felt prestige pictures.
His latest film has already been revealed as Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, an adaptation of Ben Fountain’s seriocomic satirical war novel, touted by some as “the Catch-22 of Iraq.” The novel centers on the men of Bravo Squad, who feel rather uncomfortable with their newfound status as national heroes after Fox broadcasts one of their battles on television. It all comes to a head at a football game on Thanksgiving Day, where the Bravos and the rest of the world begin to collide.
Lee’s already made one splashy casting notice by tapping total unknown Joe Alwyn for the title role, and now today brings another exciting addition to what’s shaping up to be an unusual project. Deadline reports that Mr. Martin—I’m sorry, that’s Mr. Steve Martin—has signed on to appear in Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk in an unspecified yet major role. Martin, once a fixture of comedy cinema, has been taking a break from his wild and crazy career as of late. His last big-screen appearance was in 2011’s The Big Year, and though he’s contributing voice work to the upcoming animated feature Home (a project that will forever link Martin with Rihanna and J-Lo, which could come in handy during degrees-of-separation games), Martin’s been rather quiet in recent years. This project could be his big announcement that the Jerk still works.
Yet, this is also a key acquisition for Lee. Managing tone in a dramedy can be extremely difficult, and brilliant as Lee’s films can be, they’re perilously short on laughs. (Brokeback Mountain: Total downer.) Martin has a knack for turning on a dime between schtick and acting-acting, so his will be a fine talent to lead the charge.