Bruno meets Benny and Joon

Internet cartoon character looks to the big screen.


Jeff Stark
May 14, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)

Christopher Baldwin is surprised. Three years ago, when the 26-year-old artist put his fledgling comic strip "Bruno" on the Web, he was almost as confused and directionless as his strip's heroine. Now, after signing a contract last week with Tin Roof Productions and director Jeremiah Chechik -- whose credits include "Benny & Joon," the remake of "Diabolique" and "The Avengers" -- it looks as if Baldwin's character might become a movie star.

The strip is a single-panel daily cartoon about a curly-haired young woman named Bruno. In the first year, when the comic still appeared exclusively in Baldwin's college newspaper, Bruno quit school, flitted around the country and corrupted her younger cousin, Amy. Bruno read good books and smoked pot; she nourished relationships and had sex with boys and girls.

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Much of the feeling, and some of the action, parallels Baldwin and his life. Like Baldwin, Bruno temporarily left New England for New Orleans. "There's this feeling that she has that everything is pointless and she's stagnating," he says. "She accepts this. Usually, the feelings she has are the ones I'm dealing with."

"She is radical, edgy, dark and sardonic, yet she is extremely warm," says producer Van Spurgeon, who is a partner at Tin Roof. The producer says that teenage girls and the Bruno Daily Times' 5,000 daily readers will make for a natural film audience. With that in mind, Tin Roof signed Baldwin for a one-year option on his strip. They plan to develop the script outside the major studios, which might take issue with Bruno's sexuality. "It's more risky, but you make your project faster and with more integrity," says Spurgeon, who most recently produced "Goodbye Lover."

Tin Roof is currently in negotiation with three different writers; Baldwin will consult on the script. Baldwin wouldn't say how much the option was worth, but he did say that if the movie gets made he could see "hundreds of thousands." He will retain all rights to the character and be able to continue merchandising his Bruno book collections, coffee mugs and the like.

Spurgeon says the Bruno project bears a superficial resemblance to "Ghost World," an upcoming movie based on comic artist Daniel Clowes' graphic novel about two high-school girls, although he thinks the "Bruno" audience will be younger. That, of course, partly depends on who will star in the title role. Who would Baldwin like to see? "Janeane Garofalo," he says without skipping a beat. "They want Christina Ricci, who would be fine, but I've always thought of Janeane."


Jeff Stark

Jeff Stark is the associate editor of Salon Arts and Entertainment.

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