Behind the scenes of ''The Three Stooges''--ABC's upcoming biopic, produced by Mel Gibson, offers up more than slapstick

By Lynette Rice
Updated April 21, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

The producers of ABC’s biopic The Three Stooges (airing on April 24) claim that no one was hurt in the making of this film. Well, then, please explain how the actors got these scars: Michael Chiklis (Curly) suffered a gash in his forehead after Paul Ben-Victor (Moe) smashed a radio over his head, while Evan Handler (Larry) recalls a moment during production in Sydney, Australia, when ”I saw these enormous bruises on each of my arms. My first thought was I had a disease.” Okay, so we’re not talking about life-threatening wounds here, and it’s only fair to note that the film — based on Michael Fleming’s recent Stooges biography and produced by Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions and the team behind ABC’s Annie isn’t just about the trio’s repertoire of physical comedy. ”No one knew that Moe was a control freak, that Curly tended toward womanizing and alcoholism, that Larry was a gambler, and Shemp was a neurotic,” says exec producer Neil Meron. ”We go into their flaws, but you do love them.” You may even pity them: The Stooges were paid what Meron calls ”slave wages” — about $20,000 a year each — when they made their 190 immensely popular shorts for theaters from 1934 to 1958. But the trio got the last laugh: Personal appearances brought them wealth, and TV syndication gave them a lasting legacy, soitanly among men. ”It was sort of primitive,” says Stooge lover Gibson. ”When you see a guy get hit on the head with a hammer and you hear a funny sound, it makes you laugh. You’re glad it’s not you, but you’ll watch someone else take it.”