Chris Farley's early and tragic passing made his short career legendary, almost by default, but would he have been an even bigger star if he had continued and perhaps evolved over the years? He passed away in December of 1997, and left behind a legacy of solid films and multiple SNL skits that will go down in history for their ridiculous physical brand of comedy and Farley's lovably sporadic improv style.
The question that I want to pose is whether Farley would possibly have had a bigger impact if he had lived on and taken roles other actors were instead given. He was only 33 when he passed, which left a lot of years of comedy on the table that he could have used to even more firmly solidify himself as a comedic genius. Or, to play Devil's Advocate, would we have grown tired of his style of comedy?
Here is what could have been with the career of a funny, funny man, with an addiction that cut what could have been a fruitful career short.
Chris Farley, Chris Rock, and Ben Stiller were supposed to make a 'Ghostbusters 3'
This would've been hilarious. The three of them would have contributed their own unique brands of humor to the project, and I think if the script was written well, this would have been a surefire hit. Ben Stiller, at the time, was trending like crazy, Chris Rock was at his peak, and Farley was a mastermind in his own right. Everything he did was calculated. There was not just a fat man falling down and being ridiculous - there was Chris Farley winning over audiences with his "can't help but love him" attitude even though he's typically playing a lunatic. I would've loved to have seen this film.
'A Confederacy of Dunces' role given to Nick Offerman was originally supposed to be Farley
The humorous 1980s novel became a cult classic, and Nick Offerman will probably do a great job. However, when this project was originally beginning to take some form, the actor they wanted was Farley. Here's the explanation of the character Farley would have taken on via Wikipedia:
Ignatius J. Reilly, is an educated but slothful 30-year-old man living with his mother in the Uptown neighborhood of early-1960s New Orleans who, in his quest for employment, has various adventures with colorful French Quarter characters. Toole wrote the novel in 1963 during his last few months in Puerto Rico.
This would have been a bit of a smarter role for Farley. It might have given him a chance to be a little bit more multi-faceted. I would have wanted to see this, as well.
Could he have taken the role of Zookeeper? Or Paul Blart?
Regardless of whether you're a fan of these types of films, you have to agree that they have an audience. I think Kevin James has carved out a niche for himself in Hollywood, but it is probably fair to say that Farley would have put up a competing fight for Hollywood "fat guy" roles. Not to say that he was merely a fat guy... he was more than that. But it's sort of unrealistic to pretend like the size and shape of both comedians doesn't play into their appeal. I think they're very different, though, actually. James is probably more of the "every day" man, while Farley is absurdist and works to make everybody (including himself) uncomfortable. And it's hysterical!
Would Farley have fallen off, like many of his fellow SNL mates?
We witnessed Adam Sandler rise to prominence as a bonafide Hollywood comedy A-Lister. However, he didn't seem to maintain that into the late 2000s or the present. He's definitely still got some juice in the tank, but audiences seem to be growing slightly tired of his stuff. Pixels being the latest example of a flop from his camp. David Spade is kind of off the map as of late, Rob Schneider has fallen off a bit, Chris Rock is doing okay, but would Farley be the exception to the rule? Could he have made some of these Sandler films funnier if he was involved? I think there's a distinct possibility that he would've kept the rest of his gang's brand of comedy in tact. He was supposed to be in Grown Ups, and I think he would've made those movies much funnier.
Could he have been a good Shrek?
While it's difficult to imagine anyone other than Mike Myers in this role, Farley was in the discussion and could have killed it as Shrek. But on a broader scale, I think roles like this one and others... big franchise roles... could have been expertly done by Farley. I think one of his biggest strengths as a comedy actor is he was game and willing to put himself out there. That's often the scariest thing for comedians, and perhaps his willingness to be so outrageous was part of what formed his addictive habits. Who knows? All I know is, the legendary man had a lot left in the tank when he passed, and I wish we could have seen how his career would have ended up.
I'm sure we would've been laughing our asses off.