Answering the ‘Pootie’ call

Rock to take Louis C.K.'s character to the bigscreen

Chris Rock may have a trio of top-drawer films set to bow this year in the wake of his recent starring turn in the romantic comedy “Down to Earth,” but it’s perhaps the summer release of “Pootie Tang” that Rock fans — and viewers of “The Chris Rock Show” series on HBO in particular — are most eagerly awaiting.

Based on a “guest” who used to appear on “The Chris Rock Show” series, this pic chronicles the life of Pootie Tang, a crime-fighting singing sensation who nobody can understand — literally.

Ironically, the initial introduction of Pootie Tang on the series baffled HBO execs and those involved with the production. But after his debut, it became clear they had something.

“The first time we did it (on the show) people started emailing and talking about it on the radio,” recalls Rock. “We were driving to some concert or whatever and suddenly we hear (on the radio), ‘Now shout out to the Pootie Tang.’ We were like, ‘What the heck?'”

Played by Lance Crouther, Pootie Tang does not speak English, Spanish, German, or Pig Latin. He speaks a language all his own. Call it Pootie speak or Pootie-nese.

“He came on the show to promote his video,” says Crouther. “Then he came on to promote a book, then because he was running for office — and he won.”

After a few appearances, says Louis C.K., a former “Chris Rock Show” staff writer who created the Pootie Tang character, HBO execs — many of whom initially didn’t get it — were “demanding that we put on Pootie Tang.”

The bigscreen version is written, directed and co-produced by C.K., who also created the character’s Pootie-speak. The MTV/HBO Downtown Prods./Paramount Pictures film, set for a summer release, co-stars J.B. Smooth, Jennifer Coolidge, Wanda Sykes and Rock.

Upcoming Rock efforts also include the animated “Osmosis Jones,” where he is among the voices in an expectedly off-beat effort. Bobby and Peter Farrelly will direct live-action sequences for the film; the toon story will be helmed by Piet Kroon and Tom Sito. The story tracks an ambitious white blood cell and a cold tablet who team up to fight invading viruses in the body they inhabit.

The film also features Matt Damon as himself and the voices of Brandy, George Carlin, Bill Murray, Ron Howard, and Laurence Fishburne, among others and marks Warner Bros.’ third animated film. It is slated for an Aug. 10 release and the WB network has high hopes for a TV spin-off. It has ordered 13 animated episodes based on the film that will air in the fall.

Also on deck for Rock is “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” the Kevin Smith-directed pic for Miramax starring Ben Affleck, Shannon Elizabeth and Jason Biggs centering on the comic “Bluntman and Chronic” and described as being in the vein of “Clerks” and “Mall Rats.” The story details the life of stoners Jay and Silent Bob who adapt their comic for the bigscreen, but later set out to stop the production of the movie. The role reunites Rock with Smith, with whom he co-starred in “Dogma” in 1999.

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