Virtually everyone in Hollywood (apparently) wants to work on a movie either written and/or directed by Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind creator Charlie Kaufman before they die – even one as crazy and subversive as Frank or Francis, a relentlessly biting musical satire that cuts everyone in Tinseltown a new one.

The cast for Frank already included funnymen Steve Carrell and Jack Black, along with Oscar-winners Nicolas Cage (yes, he has one) and Kevin Kline. Recent reports indicate that two familiar faces to the Kaufman-verse are also onboard for the film, along with a popular starlet – and even Pee-wee Herman himself, surreal as it may seem.

Frank or Francis is based on a screenplay by Kaufman (which he is also directing) that centers on a battle of wills between ultra-pretentious filmmaker Frank Arder (Carell) and Francis Deems (Black), a movie blog commentator who’s earned a solid following, thanks to his articulate yet vicious critiques of Mr. Arder’s work.

THR, Variety, and Vulture have reported the latest additions to the Frank or Francis cast include:

  • Kate Winslet, who landed an Oscar nod for her acclaimed turn in Kaufman’s Spotless Mind (pun intended). UPDATE: A more recent report from THR confirms that Winslet is NOT starring in Frank or Francis after all.
  • Catherine Keener, who likewise was nominated for her turn in Being John Malkovich, and appeared in Kaufman’s directorial debut, Synecdoche, New York.
  • Elizabeth Banks, who can currently be seen in theaters in Man on a Ledge – and, will play Effie Trinket in this spring’s The Hunger Games adaptation.
  • Paul Reubens, who is fresh off reprising his iconic character role in the Emmy-nominated Broadway revival of “The Pee-wee Herman Show”.

Banks will appear in Frank as a “highly-regarded actress making formulaic comedy bombs” who is having an affair with Carrell’s filmmaker. Meanwhile, Reubens will portray a professional film critic.

Combine all that with an ingenious script that includes characters talking in “music speak,” Kline playing a blockbuster director who gets inspiration from an animatronic head (also Kline), and Cage portraying a washed-out emcee who hosts the Oscars – and, yeah, you know you’re in for another Kaufman mind-bender.

Kaufman has rightly earned himself a reputation for churning out screenplays that are insatiably meta (Adaptation), too thematically ambitious for their britches (Synecdoche, New York), and otherwise downright peculiar mind trips (see: any of his scripts). At the same time, his films are never boring, tackle some genuinely intriguing concepts concerning the nature of art and life, and generally offer very layered character roles that experienced thespians can really sink their teeth into.

That’s all to say: despite featuring a cast of Oscar-winners, nominees, and popular stars alike, Frank or Francis sounds as distinctively Kaufman-style weird, non-mainstream, and artistically inventive as anything he’s done before. Count us among those who are eagerly waiting to see how the final product turns out.

Frank or Francis is expected to officially begin production in the near future. We will continue to keep you updated on any other noteworthy developments concerning the project in the meantime.

Source: THR, Variety, Vulture