Now the Movie World Wants Roseanne, Tom : Films: The competition is heated to sign the Arnolds for a feature. The TV stars choose a cross-country comedy-adventure.


Roseanne and Tom Arnold will be spending their summer vacation on the road.

The Arnolds will be traveling together through the dusty hamlets and cow-dotted burgs of America on a comedy and life-or-death adventure some in Hollywood are describing as “Thelma and Lou.”

While television audiences have come to know them chiefly through the hit sitcom “Roseanne” and “The Jackie Thomas Show,” an as-yet-untitled movie starring the outrageous comedians is scheduled to begin shooting in June for Columbia Pictures.

The Arnolds have been making headlines recently with their much-publicized battle with ABC, a rift that may end--ABC Entertainment president Ted Harbert said in New York that an announcement involving the network and the Arnolds would be made later this week. Meanwhile, movie producers have been scrambling to get them to make a film during their summer hiatus from television.



It was the cross-country escapades of Archie and Myrna--written by Bob Comfort and produced by the husband-wife team of Ned and Nancy Graham Tanen--that the Arnolds ultimately chose to bring to the screen. It will be their first feature-length film together and follows her 1989 movie “She-Devil” with Meryl Streep, which was not the box-office hit some had hoped.

Roseanne Arnold will play Myrna, a waitress at a bowling alley in the small Midwestern town of Morgan Falls. She is fed up with her life and has been offered a job as a department store beautician in Portland, Ore., if she can get there in time.

Tom Arnold will portray Archie, a con artist/tow truck driver who spots Myrna’s disabled car by the side of the highway.

The movie is awaiting a final green light from Columbia. The producers are under the gun to complete principal photography by early August, when Roseanne has to return to her TV series.

“There were a lot of producers who wanted to do a Tom and Roseanne movie,” said one Hollywood source. “Every studio in town has been competing to get them in a summer movie.”

The competition for the Arnolds was fierce, at one point including offers from such powerful producers as Joel Silver, Jon Peters and Lorne Michaels, according to sources.


But it was the Tanens (“Breakfast Club,” “St. Elmo’s Fire”), who won out with Comfort’s 50 pages of dialogue. More than half of the screenplay was not completed until a few weeks ago.

The Tanens had searched months for the right screenwriter and selected Comfort because of his reputation for creating eccentric, off-beat characters (“The Redd Foxx Show,” “Wacko,” “The John Byner Comedy Hour”).

Because Comfort had previously committed to finishing a screenplay for Penny Marshall and Jack Nicholson, he did not complete a draft of the Arnolds’ script until last fall, and then only half was done. When the comedians gave thumbs up to the script, the race was on to finish it in time for the summer hiatus. That is when the Tanens brought in Jeff Reno and Ron Osborn, who wrote many episodes of the “Moonlighting” TV series, to help finish the project.

What they created is a script that will not only take the Arnolds on location from Illinois to Oregon, but explores the relationship of two down-on-their-luck working people who struggle to survive amid calamity, con men and chance encounters.

When they set out on the road, Archie and Myrna have little money, but through his resourcefulness, they never go hungry for long and they always have a place to sleep. Myrna is against the way he operates, but eventually gets caught up in it--even to the point of using a gun she has stashed in her purse to get Archie out of ticklish situations.

Archie is a likable con man who collects model trains, does a great Elvis impression and is not above crashing a funeral to get at the free food afterward.


Unlike Archie, Myrna possesses more of a conscience. Her sarcastic comebacks and common sense keep Archie in his place, even though she fears that anywhere along the road he is going to leave her.

At the beginning, they don’t like or trust each other, but because of each of their needs to go west, they have to share a car.

The movie shares some of the working-class, middle-American values--and hardships--of the TV series “Roseanne,” although in this story, the Arnolds lurch from one outlandish crisis to another, down endless highways filled with RVs, weird hitchhikers and police pursuits.

As for the Arnolds’ running battle with ABC, the network reportedly is closing in on a production deal that will help heal the rift between the two factions that erupted last month when ABC refused to make a decision on the fate of “The Jackie Thomas Show,” which starred Tom Arnold as a bullying and brutish television star. The show was eventually canceled by ABC.

In addition, Tom Arnold is still apparently talking with “Designing Women” creator Linda Bloodworth-Thomason about starring in a CBS series next season.


Times staff writer Greg Braxton contributed to this story.