"Barfly," a film in production for The Cannon Group Inc., is the story of three days in the life of Charles Bukowski at age 24. Bukowski wrote the screenplay for director Barbet Schroeder in 1979, but Schroeder had problems raising the money to film it. In the meantime, Dennis Hopper had seen the script and told Sean Penn about it. Penn was so excited about the prospect of playing the young Bukowski that, the poet says, he offered to star in the film for $1. But Penn insisted that Hopper, who had brought the script to him, direct.
Although Bukowski thought that Penn "would make a great barfly," he felt an obligation to Schroeder, who had been shepherding the project for seven years. Since Penn felt that he couldn't relent in his commitment to Hopper, Schroeder got Mickey Rourke to star instead. Faye Dunaway will play Bukowski's girlfriend.
Early this year, when financial problems at Cannon threatened to kill the film, Schroeder, a tall, aristocratic Frenchman, walked into Cannon with an electric chain saw, plugged it in and threatened to cut off his fingers one by one unless the project went forward. Filming began in February in a Culver City bar. Under Schroeder's agreement with Bukowski, no dialogue can be changed without Bukowski's permission. "Barfly" is scheduled for fall release.