You gotta give upcoming Osar co-host and current Best Actor nominee James Franco points for ambition. Not only does the former Spider-Man actor claim to have done extensive pre-production work on an adaptation of the American literary masterpiece As I Lay Dying, but he is also prepped to begin filming the project this summer.
Previous reports indicating that Franco was personally invested in tackling William Faulkner’s multi-perspective novel were seemingly true, as the 32-year old thespian already has a potential (and highly accomplished) cast in mind as well.
Franco was chilling on the streets of Park City, Utah (get it? Moving on…) while attending the 2011 Sundance Film Festival when MTV caught up with him. Word from the 127 Hours lead is that he’s not only crafted a lengthy 160-page script based off Faulkner’s original prose, but that Franco rang in the New Year by doing an entire amateur-shoot of As I Lay Dying with actors down in North Carolina – though none of those performers are apparently guaranteed to appear in the actual theatrical film.
It turns out Franco has his eyes on some undeniably top-notch talents to bring Faulkner’s layered narrative to life. Their ranks include that of Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood), Oscar-nominee Richard Jenkins (last seen playing Chloe Moretz’ “father” in Let Me In), Franco’s self-proclaimed favorite actor to work with, Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire), and Joaquin Phoenix, who should hopefully get back to racking up award nominations as opposed to ornery glares from cinemaphiles who were less than impressed with his I’m Still Here shenanigans.
As I Lay Dying revolves around the symbolic efforts of the Bundren clan to honor the wishes of their dearly-departed matriarch and bury her in the town of Jefferson, Mississippi. Faulkner constructed his novel in an experimental mode that uses fifteen different narrators, each of whom has their own thoughts, feelings, and motivations, with regards to the task at hand.
Franco has spoken out before about the difficulties presented by the structure and design of Faulkner’s original text and offered the following insight concerning his approach to the material:
“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 of ways — but in order to be loyal I will have to change some things for the movie.”
There have been no reports of Franco securing financial backing yet for his project, which he may also tackle acting duties on. Given the prestigious nature of the source material and the fact that Franco already has a demo reel complete that illustrates his approach to the adaptation, it shouldn’t be long before he garners the support of anxious studio execs that smell a possible awards-season contender in the works.