‘The Simpsons’ Almost Gave This Iconic Character a Live-Action Movie (2024)

The Big Picture

  • Troy McClure was beloved by fans and staff on The Simpsons for his comedic charm and memorable catchphrase.
  • McClure's role expanded to hosting Simpsons specials and even starring in an iconic episode.
  • Phil Hartman wanted to create a live-action Troy McClure movie, but his untimely passing halted the project.

Spanning over 30 years, The Simpsons has created a vast catalog of memorable characters. From regulars like Ned Flanders to one-time appearances like Hank Scorpio. The characters outside the family became so defined and well established that they could take more central roles and even expand their reach. For example, Krusty the Clown became so successful that there was even talk of a spin-off in the early 90s, and it was going to be live action! In season seven, an episode solely followed the side characters and "22 Short Films about Spingfield" became one of the series' most memorable episodes. Sadly, there are two beloved characters from The Simpsons that have been absent for about two decades: Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure. Hutz was the cheap and inept lawyer responsible for one of the best gags and McClure was the actor turned spokesperson always and two time host of meta-Simpsons episodes.

Although both characters were a reliable source of laughs, both were retired out of respect for the passing of their voice actor,Phil Hartman. Hartman was a frequent guest star on The Simpsons and was regularly written parts simply because the staff liked to work with him. While he also played one-time characters like Bart's volunteer older brother Tom and monorail sales representative Lyle Lanely, McClure was inextricably linked to Hartman. After a long and celebrated tenure on Saturday Night Live, Hartman appeared in various movies and tv shows and had an idea to take his beloved Simpsons character one-step further.

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The Simpsons

The satiric adventures of a working-class family in the misfit city of Springfield.

Troy McClure Is a Beloved 'The Simpsons' Character

Troy McClure was not only a fan favorite, but a staff favorite as well. The has-been actor turned spokesperson was a recurring figure any time the show needed to do an infomercial or educational video. Reflecting on working with Hartman in his book, Springfield Confidential, long time Simpsons writer Mike Riess thought Hartman was almost too perfect with every line read. "I couldn't bear the thought that he'd driven ninety minutes [from his Malibu home to recordings at the Fox lot] to do five minutes' work; I'd always have him do extra takes just to make it worth his while," said Riess. For years, it was a fun comedic game to have McClure introduce himself by referencing different absurd movies, from "Two Minus Three is Negative Fun" to "Get Confident, Stupid!" Always leading with his catchphrase "Hi, I'm Troy McClure. You might remember me from such films as..." McClure was a welcome surprise in any episode.

The role McClure had on the show would expand uniquely, starting with two Simpsons episodes. Season 7's "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular" and Season 8's "The Simpsons Spin-off Showcase" were departures from the misadventures of Homer, Marge, Lisa, and Bart. The episodes were riffs on the classic clip shows (a pre-streaming way to repackage old episodes in a new context) that took place outside the world of The Simpsons proper. Both were presented as specials hosted by McClure directly addressing the audience in a way no character had had before. McClure's salesmanship and style of delivery made it easy for him to bridge the format shift while keeping the audience comfortable. But McClure could play in the world of The Simpsons, interacting directly with the famous family, just as easily.

The most famous use of Troy McClure is the season seven episode "A Fish Called Selma." The has-been actor experiences a career revival after being spotted on a date with Marge's sister Selma. Showing that he's a normal guy, McClure decides to marry Selma. As it was directly inspired by a desire to incorporate more of Hartman and Troy McClure into the show, the episode would go on to be one of the show's most beloved, and suggested maybe there was more to McClure that could be done.

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There Was Strong Enthusiasm for a Troy McClure Movie

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"I would love nothing more than to play Troy McClure in a love-action film," Hartman was quoted in his biography, You Might Remember Me: The Life and Times of Phil Hartman. He reportedly pitched it to the producers on the show and he "may even buy the rights and do it myself." His biographer, Mike Thomas, believed Phil's affinity for the Troy McClure character came from his natural showmanship and comedic appreciation for an older version of Hollywood stars, with McClure it was a chance to play a boastful, not too bright, but not mean Hollywood type with a booming voice. Not much is known about what this theoretical movie is, but Hartman did say in an interview that he was looking forward to detailing McClure's "Betty Ford appearances." Buying the rights himself wasn't even necessary, as he had full support from The Simpsons.

While Hartman had been making appearances since season 2 of The Simpsons, it was season 7 and 8 showrunners Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein that were behind the expansion of McClure's role (producing the three aforementioned episodes.) Thus, it was Weinstein and Oakley Hartman that mostly conferred his plans for a live action McClure movie. They recalled in the DVD commentary for "A Fish Called Selma" Hartman pitching them his plans and the two being eager to help out. Hartman was a writer himself, not only with his contributions to Saturday Night Live, but he is also one of the credited screenwriters on Pee-Wee's Big Adventure and likely would have had a hand in developing the film's script.

Unfortunately, Phil Hartman's untimely passing prevented the movie from ever happening. After his death, Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz were retired from the roster of Simpsons characters. This was one of two tributes to Hartman from Matt Groening and company, with Futurama's Philip J. Fry being a namesake for the late actor who was also supposed to voice the McClure-esque space captain Zapp Brannigan.

Phil Hartman Was Exceptional in Both TV And Movies

Many of Hartman's cohorts from Saturday Night Live went on to be movie stars, including Mike Meyers, Adam Sandler, and Chris Farley. While his commitment to the sketch show, followed by his four-season run on NewsRadio, prevented Hartman from many starring roles, he made memorable supporting performances in movies. Hartman brought laughs to the Sinbad-led comedy Houseguest, proved to be a comedic foil to Arnold Schwarzeneggar in Jingle All the Way, and even took part in the English dub of one of Hayao Miyazaki's masterpieces, Kiki's Delievery Service where he excels as the witch's feline sidekick Jiji. A Troy McClure movie would have given Hartman the chance to show off his leading man chops and potentially boosted a movie star career for the highly respected actor.

The Simpsons is currently streaming on Disney+ in the U.S.

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‘The Simpsons’ Almost Gave This Iconic Character a Live-Action Movie (2024)
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