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James Franco directs and stars in the unfilmable 'As I Lay Dying'

Adapting difficult novels into films has become James Franco's latest "thing."

James Franco say he manages his fame the same way you manage your Facebook account. Credit: Getty James Franco says he manages his fame the same way you manage your Facebook account.
Credit: Getty

As you may have heard, James Franco's been busy. In addition to being a prolific actor (he squares off against Jason Statham in "Homefront" in a couple weeks), he's also a prolific director who's particularly drawn to novels deemed unfilmable. His take on William Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying," which played at the Toronto Film Festival this year along with his adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's "Child of God," has just arrived on DVD. And in addition to "Actors Anonymous," his new book of short stories, Franco is promising an adaptation of Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury" next.

Franco on literary adaptations:
"What I figured out with even my short films based on poetry is if I use a literary source that is somehow stylistically interesting or stylistically unconventional or just complex, it will push me as a filmmaker in new directions. It will take me out of conventional ways of filmmaking," he explains. "If I'm going to direct a film, I don't want to just do a nice job at something that you've kind of seen before. I want to explore new stuff. And I think that's one of the reasons that I don't just act.

"There are stories that I love that I just don't think would be told. 'As I Lay Dying' has been around for 80 years. Nobody's made it. So I made it. There's this old adage that great books make bad movies and bad books can make good movies, like 'The Godfather' — I mean, it's not a bad book, it's just kind of a dime-store thing. I don't think that's completely true, but what I think is true about it is when people love a good book it's not just because of the story; it's because of the way it's written, the style, the structure. Something that works in a book won't necessarily work in a movie in the exact same way. You have to translate the style. And I love that. That's, I guess, become my thing."

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Franco on Franco:
"The way that we look at ourselves is forever changed because of the way our own images are distributed, the way we distribute them, the way we reshape them. It's tied up with public image, celebrity and our relationship to that," Franco says. "So I'm in a position where I do have a public image in, I guess, a very public way. But I really view that — my relationship to my public image — as something that is just maybe a larger projection or a larger, more extreme version of the way someone projects him or herself on Facebook, photos that he or she decides to post, what he or she decides to write, how that public image is crafted."

 
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