By Jeff Labrecque
July 24, 2012 at 08:58 PM EDT
Everett Collection

Russell Crowe has been talking about making a Bill Hicks movie for almost five years. In fact, the chatter has gone on long enough that the 48-year-old Crowe may have aged himself out of the starring role as the politically provocative comic, who died of pancreatic cancer in 1994 at the age of 32. Crowe seems to acknowledge that fact, according to a report in the Sydney Telegraph, but he’s still intent on bringing Hicks’ life to the screen — as the film’s director. Writer Mark Staufer told the Telegraph his script is slated to go in to production “early next year,” with Crowe making his feature directorial debut.

But who should now play the iconoclastic comic, whose brilliant sets were imitated — and co-opted? — by his comedy-club peers and subsequent generations of comedians? The role is a high-risk, high-reward proposition for the right actor, not unlike Jim Carrey’s portrayal of Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon. My choice? Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Anyone who’s seen his live HitRECord shows knows he’s a charismatic stage performer, and I have no doubt he could channel the darkness that swirled around Hicks like the plumes of smoke that lingered from his cigarettes.

John Cusack also fits the mold, especially since he seems to share some of Hicks’ politics, but he’s not much younger than Crowe. Ryan Reynolds could rejuvenate his career and I have no doubt he could deliver the caustic barbs and astute political observations that made Hicks an underground sensation.

But perhaps only a professional stand-up comic should get the right to portray Hicks. Someone like Zach Galifianakis or Patton Oswalt?

Watch a clip of the man in action, and then vote below for who you think would make the best Bill Hicks.

Read more:

David Letterman airs the ‘lost’ Bill Hicks set

‘Bill Hicks Live’ DVD review

Who’s your favorite stand-up comic of all-time?