MONTREAL — James Gandolfini may have been connected as Tony Soprano but he’ll have to speed up his diction and call in a lot of Hollywood favours to equal Rogatien Dubois Jr.
Gandolfini, who is best known to TV viewers as the burly and troubled head of a dysfunctional mob clan on The Sopranos, is in the early stages of developing the hit Quebec TV series Taxi 0-22 for American television.
Taxi 0-22, which will be called Taxi 22 in its American version and set in New York, began its voyages on the streets of Montreal with a stream of opinions and Quebecois slang pouring out of its star as he sat behind the wheel.
Besides Dubois’ weekly tirades, it’s also known for the celebrities who ride in Taxi 0-22, including hockey players and coaches, singers and actors.
But for all the verbosity of the show’s main character, anyone associated with the project was almost monosyllabic, if not mute, when asked for comment on Friday.
Elizabeth Roy, a spokeswoman for the Quebec production company behind Taxi 0-22, said star and co-creator Patrick Huard and his colleagues had nothing to say at this point.
An official for HBO, which will broadcast the show if it is picked up, has confirmed it is in its very early stages of development.
Dubois is played by Huard, known to English Canada as Det. David Bouchard, the francophone half of the crime-busting duo in Bon Cop, Bad Cop, which went on to become Canada’s biggest box-office hit.
Some reports say Gandolfini would star in the American version but there has been no official confirmation.
Dubois is described as “the cab driver who is never lost for words,” and Huard, who cut his chops as a stand-up comic, never flags in his relentlessly rapid-fire and sometimes inane patter.
Dubois’ motto is he’d rather see one idiot take a stand on something than 250 idiots not take a stand on anything.
And political correctness?
Forget it.Any and every topic is fair game for the volatile Dubois.
During a meeting with then-Montreal Canadiens players Stephane Quintal and Mathieu Dandenault during a hospital stay, Dubois warns them to stay out of the children’s ward because “they’re full of germs.”
The Quebec series, which is in its fourth season, has been nominated several times for Quebec’s equivalent of the Emmy Awards and won an Olivier — which rewards Quebec humour — for best comedy in 2008.
All the seasons are available on DVD.
The show’s broadcaster, the French-language TVA network, has said it pulls in around one million viewers per week.