I can’t shake James Franco from his popcorn roles. When I think of him I think of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films, of Pineapple Express, Your Highness, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It’s not that I am unaware of his roles in Milk or 127 Hours. It’s just that they seem tangential to how Hollywood has sold him to me as an actor. His upcoming literary projects may change that.
Having a MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University as well being in the PHD program for English at Yale, it’s no surprise that James Franco is racking up a slew of interesting literary projects. Book lovers are drawn to projects about books.
He’s already starred as Alan Ginsberg in Howl. Now Franco is stepping into the director’s chair for films based on the works of Cormac McCarthy and William Faulkner. Neither is audience friendly.
The first is Child of God by McCarthy, already in post-production, featuring Tim Blake Nelson who I loved in O Brother, Where Art Thou? Getting McCarthy right on film is about capturing tone. Something the Cohen brothers handled with near perfection in No Country for Old Men. Just how Franco will handle this literary horror story that features violence and necrophilia will be key to whether the film is watchable or just a freak show.
Next Franco is tackling William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. While not having the ultra-violence to overcome, Faulkner’s novel featuring 15 different narrators will be no less of a challenge to shoot. A lot will depend on how the screenplay comes together (something Franco is supplying for both films). As I Lay Dying is still listed as being in pre-production according to the IMDB and with an unconfirmed cast.
I always appreciate it when actors take risks. Deciding to direct these two films, which would challenge even seasoned directors, is a big gamble. I’m looking forward to seeing if the gamble pays off.
*photo of James Franco at the “My Own Private River” Film Society Of Lincoln Center Screening & Q&A 2012