James Franco dreams big, then bigger

Posted by · 6:24 pm · January 3rd, 2011

Many actors eyeing early directorial projects tend to focus on something both modest and close to home, a performance-oriented piece on which to cut their teeth for more formally ambitious works in the future.

Try telling that to James Franco. In perhaps the most unlikely heartthrob-behind-camera move since Kevin Costner announced his intention to make a three-hour post-Civil War Western with large chunks of Lakota dialogue, news has come down the wire of Franco’s intention to finally adapt and direct Cormac McCarthy’s ┬átotemic Western novel “Blood Meridian,” a long-mooted project previously held by the likes of Ridley Scott and Todd Field, for the screen.

But that’s not before he makes his intended big-league debut as writer-director with another little literary adaptation prospect: William Faulkner’s stream-of-consciousness classic “As I Lay Dying,” which you may or may not recall has just 15 narrators. No sweat. As fellow film writer Neil Young remarked to me on Twitter, “He might at least warm up with a 10-hour ‘Finnegan’s Wake,’ or perhaps just a couple of Pynchons.”

Franco and his manager are in the process of negotiating with the Faulkner estate on that project, but he looks set to nab a major ally on “Blood Meridian”: he’s in talks with Scott Rudin, who previously shepherded that fairly successful McCarthy adaptation called “No Country for Old Men.” (As chance would have it, Rudin is also handling a stage revival of “Sweet Bird of Youth,” in which Franco — or perhaps a swiftly invented clone — will somehow find time to star opposite Nicole Kidman. How far away can news of the big-screen adaptation be?)

All of a sudden, that surprise (and still wholly unpredictable) Oscar hosting gig looks far from the most challenging commitment in Franco’s diary. We knew, from his endeavours in short filmmaking and creative writing, that Franco has a lot of ideas in his head, but with little concrete evidence of his hyphenate ability to go on, there’s no way of knowing if these new developments are heroic or foolhardy. Perhaps he’s Orson Welles. Perhaps he’s insane. Either way, while I confess I was more excited for Field’s “Blood Meridian” than Franco’s, I’m fascinated to see how this pans out.

[Photo: TheBosh.com]




→ 25 Comments Tags: , , , | Filed in: Daily

25 responses so far

  • 1 1-03-2011 at 7:10 pm

    Brock Landers said...

    Meridian is pretty much unfilmable and you couldn’t go all the way with it without getting an NC-17 rating. Ever since Jesse James I always thought Andrew Dominik should be the one to do it, if anyone. Meridian would be similar in style and scope to Jesse James, and Dominik handled the tricky narrative of Jesse James very well, which would give me some faith in him to do it for Meridian.

    Regardless, I am interested to see how Franco does, if he does end up doing it.

  • 2 1-03-2011 at 7:35 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    More movie stars like this, please.

  • 3 1-03-2011 at 7:36 pm

    DylanS said...

    Couldn’t agree more, Chad.

  • 4 1-03-2011 at 7:43 pm

    Fitz said...

    It seems like he has torn off much more than he can possibly chew. Hopefully he can pull it off as Blood Meridian should work spectaculary on film.

  • 5 1-03-2011 at 7:49 pm

    SC said...

    He’s certainly opting to play with a high difficulty level.

  • 6 1-03-2011 at 8:15 pm

    Matt King said...

    And yet, it isn’t like he’s not used to doing a shit ton of work all at the same time. He’s doing four different Master’s programs right now, and he’s enrolled in Yale to do his PhD in English while doing some courses at RISD. All while his career is skyrocketing and he’s doing some of his best acting work. The guy is insane, but seems capable of focusing his insanity in the right directions.

    I agree with Chad, too. Franco seems like one of the most interesting and ambitious movie stars currently around. I, like Guy, am interested to see Franco’s debut, and apparent second movie too.

  • 7 1-03-2011 at 8:22 pm

    The Dude said...

    It’s amazing to think this guy, a few years ago, was an annoyance in my book (he was, for me, the most unlikeable thing in the Spider-Man movies). But within a few short years he’s grown into…well, something that really can’t be described. Good for him. Count me in for whatever he ends up directing first.

  • 8 1-03-2011 at 8:41 pm

    Lesley said...

    Any actor who can genuinely deliver an excellent comedic performance without acting as their “usual self” but rather as a radically different character to who they are is undeniably full of potential. Franco did just that in David Gordon Green’s Pineapple Express. For that alone, I believe he might have what it takes.

  • 9 1-03-2011 at 9:52 pm

    /3rtfu11 said...

    James goes for broke.

  • 10 1-03-2011 at 9:58 pm

    Tye-Grr said...

    I love him. I’m very pleased with how his career has evolved, and it’s unlike any other of his generation. Good for him. I’ll follow him wherever.

  • 11 1-04-2011 at 1:53 am

    Pauley said...

    I had been looking forward to Todd Field’s version for quite some time so I’m pretty disappointed – but, as you say, he could well be the next Orson Wells.

  • 12 1-04-2011 at 2:27 am

    julian said...

    For anyone who has watched Valhalla Rising, Nikolas Refn would be the PERFECT director of Blood Meridian. But the again, you will get the kind of film that is so bloody and morbid it will be unwatchable….!
    Franco? Guy is spot on: he has to be a modern day Orson Welles to pull this off…! I salute him for trying, though…

  • 13 1-04-2011 at 2:36 am

    Toby Jackman said...

    Guy, could you tell us a bit about how you came to incontention? What is your back story? Where do you live in England and what sort of plans do you have for the future?

    Thank you

  • 14 1-04-2011 at 3:06 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Toby: There’s a bio (slightly out of date, I admit) in the About Us tab at the top of the page. I don’t think my back story is terribly interesting and I’m still trying to figure out my plans for next week, much less the future, but I appreciate your interest.

  • 15 1-04-2011 at 6:24 am

    Maxim said...

    Chad, aren’t you being a bit premature? I admire admition as much as anyone but so far this seaspn Franco had been nothing if not obnoxious. Still, good luck to him.

  • 16 1-04-2011 at 6:45 am

    le duff pascal said...

    I have seen his short The Clerk’s Tale and there was obviously someone who knew about filmaking. Looks promising…

  • 17 1-04-2011 at 8:20 am

    Eunice said...

    James Franco has evolved from being ‘just that guy’ into someone whose career and path is worth watching. I’m interested to see how this goes. The guy’s drive is amazing.

  • 18 1-04-2011 at 8:48 am

    Bia said...

    I’ve liked him ever since he started doing promotion for Pineapple Express and did this long-form GQ article where he talked about rebuilding his career. He basically called himself out for making crap and taking it all way too seriously. He’s come a long way…

  • 19 1-04-2011 at 10:05 am

    grover said...

    Does anyone remember the Franco directed and written feature “The Ape”? By happenstance, I picked up a copy of it when I was living overseas a few years back. Strange, strange film…

  • 20 1-04-2011 at 11:04 am

    Sawyer said...

    Isn’t he supposed to be going back to his soap opera sometime next year too? The dude is crazy, and I love it!

  • 21 1-04-2011 at 12:38 pm

    Chris said...

    “As I Lay Dying” is one of my favourite novels, so I’m very, very looking forward to what he’s going to do with it. It’ll be tricky to adapt it successfully, but if he does, it’ll be a great film.

  • 22 1-04-2011 at 2:15 pm

    Georgia said...

    When I read a biography of Jean-Louis Barrault, the French actor/director/metteur en scene (the lead in The Children of Paradise), he cut his artistic teeth when starting out on As I Lay Dying.

    It seems there’s a lot of artistic questions and choices that you have to answer when working with As I Lay Dying. Whether you manage to solve everything or not, it seems like a piece that steers you in the right direction and doesn’t let you off easy as an artist.

  • 23 1-04-2011 at 4:05 pm

    Keil Shults said...

    I obviously wish the guy the best and want his films to be good ones, but damn….was really hoping Field was going to adapt Blood Meridian. I wonder what he’s doing next.

  • 24 1-05-2011 at 11:24 am

    Mr. Gittes said...

    Franco directing Blood Meridian is idiotic.

  • 25 1-05-2011 at 4:43 pm

    David Ehrenstein said...

    Franco is also playing Hart Crane in a biopic he’s directed himself, “The Broken Tower.”