James Franco to direct As I Lay Dying – sigh!

You may have noticed recently that I’ve been preoccupied with books that make it to the big screen – it just seems that book adaptations (oh, and regurgitated remakes) are all that Hollywood is capable of churning out these days!

I can see the benefits: the popular ones are huge money spinners. And as I learned from my post on The Great Gatsby movie, some folk love to see their favourite book played out on the big screen, but others see the book as a sacred experience, one not to be tampered with by Hollywood big shots. My opinion? Churn out as many Twilight, Harry Potter or Jodi Picoult movies as you like Hollywood, but don’t touch the greats!

Impressed with the casting for The Great Gatsby, I was coming round to the idea of this movie, and was cautiously anticipating it. Now I hear that Luhrman is thinking about releasing it in 3D. Nothing screams the Jazz Age like 3D visuals, huh? Sure, Fitzgerald was a fan of opulence, but come on. 3D is nothing but a marketing gimmick that should be reserved for animated films and blockbuster giants. It’s expensive too, and unless Luhrman can promise big bucks when the film is released, then it could be a disaster. Ultimately, it will do nothing other than turn what is a beloved classic to many, into a commodity for all.

But that’s not what’s making me grumble this afternoon. I just discovered that Spidey actor James Franco is to direct As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (and Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, which I haven’t read yet). Now, tell me this is a joke. As I Lay Dying is my absolute favourite book so go ahead and call me biased, but is he kidding! Faulkner is complex to say the least: his work is tricky to interpret in book format never mind in film. How will he convey the intricate stream-of-conscious writing, the multiple narrators and the “My mother is a fish” thread. I don’t want to see his interpretation of Addie’s chapter or the landscape of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County. I have my own.

Yet Franco is aware of these challenges, and openly admits that things may need to be changed, he is quoted in The Guardian as saying:

You want to capture the tone, but you can’t work in exactly the same way … 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 … 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.

As I voice my disgust on hearing this news, someone pipes up: “Oh, he majored in English you know.” Well, from one English graduate to another: Franco, you ought to know better. Don’t try to be a smarty-pants!

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8 thoughts on “James Franco to direct As I Lay Dying – sigh!

  1. As a Southerner and English major, I agree. It’s horrific. They’re are other complex Southern writers that could easily be adapted for the big screen without sacrificial changes, like Flannery O’Connor. But Faulkner? There is no way his writing can be adequately adapted to the big screen without staying true to his message and style. It cannot be done.

  2. Not sure about Franco and “As I Lay Dying”, but do think that it requires more brains to be an actor than is usually assumed. I just finished “Room”. It could make a great movie, but I’m not sure they could find a 5-year old smart enough to play the main role.

  3. i want to put a positive spin on my comment – IF he pulls it off it could be an amazing film as it is an AMAZING book. I want it to be a weird, british, underground indie movie. IF, if, if, if, if………….. I’m nervous.

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