Tuesday, April 30, 2013

James Franco goes to Cannes with William Faulkner

Franco as Darl Bundren and
Jim Parrack (True Blood) as Cash Bundren
VIA Entertainment Weekly
Lots of bookish movie news from busy, busy James Franco whose screen adaptation of William Faulkner's classic As I Lay Dying is headed for Cannes. The process of making the film has taken a good, long time. According to EW who spoke with him early in 2011, he initially hoped to have Michael Shannon, Paul Dano, Richard Jenkins and Joaquin Phoenix on board but that didn't pan out; Richard Jenkins is still on the imdb.com listing as 'rumored' so we'll see. 

While James Franco doesn't have an A-list cast - unless you count Franco of course -  Franco is Franco, and As I Lay Dying is being welcomed into this year's Cannes festival in the Un Certain Regard category. 
In the YouTube video below Franco talked about his plans for the film. At that point the script was 160 pages which he allowed was too long (based on the page per minute rule); he clearly found his cuts, the film the Cannes festival goers will see runs 2 hours.
EW notes how difficult the book must have been to adapt: Faulkner uses 15 different points of view to tell the story of the death of Addie Bundren (Beth Grant) and her family's quest to honor her wish to be buried in the nearby town of Jefferson.
James told EW
"As I Lay Dying was a book that my father gave me and I can remember spending a weekend reading late into Friday night and Saturday night, when all of my friends were out partying…It was a difficult book back then. I just tried to understand every line of it. It stayed with me"
And if you're curious as to how he divvied up the book - he's not just credited with starring and directing; he also wrote the screenplay - Franco had this to say which seems an entirely sensible approach... 
"I don’t believe it’ll feel the same if you divide it as rigidly as the book, like titles that say ‘Cash’ and then you’re with Cash. You can slip into the characters’ heads and give them their inner voice for a while, but it has to be more fluid because movies just work differently than books. Movies, in some ways because they deal in images, are more concrete. I want to be loyal to the book — my approach is to always be loyal in a lot a ways — but in order to be loyal I will have to change some things for the movie.
The film's cast also includes Danny McBride, Logan Marshall-Green, Tim Blake Nelson and Ahna O'Reilly. That's not a typo, the name is Ahna not Anna; her imdb page lists "was formerly in a relationship with James Franco" on her trivia page. 


More bookish movie news from James Franco; he's agreed to direct and star in the adaptation of Andre Dubus III The Garden of Last Days which I read when it first came out. I found it as compelling a culture clash as Dubus III haunting House of Sand and FogThe New Yorker writes that the book was inspired by the 'rumored visit of 9/11 hijackers to a strip club shortly before their attacks. "In the fictional Puma Club, in Sarasota, Florida, a twenty-six-year-old named Bassam al-Jizani watches Spring, a stripper, undress, and finds his "hatred for these kufar rising with the knowledge of his own weakness."  According to Deadline, Franco got the OK to set the story in current day New York, which is where production starts early in July. I wonder if he's planning on playing Bassam, the Saudi Arabian fanatic, or AJ, the husband and father who is spiralling out of control. And who will play April? Hard to say since right now the project is listed simply as being in development.

Personal Connection: I don't know James Franco at all but my husband Mark worked with him pretty closely as an Assistant Director on Tristan and Isolde and couldn't speak highly enough of him. I know that Franco is a huge reader and so is Mark, better known to y'all as MLH; I'm not surprised they bonded over books. When Tristan and Isolde wrapped, Franco gifted him with a stack of his favorites including several from James Ellroy (Franco has plans to adapt Ellroy's American Tabloid), Raymond Chandler (Russell is reading my husband's Franco-signed copy of The Big Sleep right now), Dashiell Hammit and Bukowski but no Faulkner ... which MLH would NOT have read anyway. And having read Absolom, Absolom neither would I. Ok, I might. 
For the record, James didn't just sign the books of course; he penned a sweet and appreciative personal note and finished it off with his quirky signature funny face doodle. Such a thoughtful, personal gift for my hardworking MLH so you've got to know what I think of James Franco ... I'm a huge fan.


2 comments:

  1. What a nice gesture for Franco to gift your MLH. I've never met the man myself, but my friend worked with him on the set of the film The Broken Tower. (My friend wrote abiography of Hart Crane and Franco used him as a consultant on set).

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    1. to be honest I've never seen The Broken Tower - hangs head in 'shame'

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