Roscoe Arbuckle had a dramatic story that would have made for an Oscar-ready biopic. One of the silent era’s more successful talents, Arbuckle began acting in 1908, appearing in dozens of shorts and features. He began directing in 1914, and helmed the bulk of his own movies, usually under the pseudonym of William Goodrich. He appeared opposite fellow silent film era star Buster Keaton in several movies, and continued to direct talkies into the early 1930s. Arbuckle died of a heart attack in 1933, on the same day he signed a major directing contract with Warner Bros. It was also his first wedding anniversary. He was 46.
Arbuckle was also implicated in a sex crime scandal, often cited as the first major scandal of its type to hit Hollywood. The details are well-known to Hollywood history buffs: A young woman named Virginia Rappe became very ill and was hospitalized at a party Arbuckle was attending. Several people accused Arbuckle of assaulting Rappe, who later died of a bladder-related issue. Some of the details of the case were dark and violent. When the story was reported, William Randolph Hearst, the main publisher of the stories, painted Arbuckle as a monstrous lecher, despite the man having a reputation for being shy, chaste, and generally decent. Arbuckle was brought to trial three times, once on a manslaughter charge. Other actors spoke out against Arbuckle despite never having met him. Hearst got very rich. Arbuckle was eventually acquitted, but by then, many of his films had been banned.
Chris Farley saw enormous potential in an Arbuckle biopic. He also, according to “The Chris Farley Show” book, saw a certain kind of kinship with Arbuckle, another Hollywood “funny fat guy” who simultaneously enjoyed and resented his public image as a goofball comedian.