It seems that every week there is a new article written about James Franco’s incredible exploits made more impressive by his ever-growing laundry list of desired projects. Two weeks ago, Franco made his ambition known by stating that he wants to direct two of the most beloved novels in American history – William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. This statement shocked both the literature community as well as the cinematic one. Neither novel has yet been adapted to the screen because of both the daunting task a director would have to live up to the source material, as well as the fact that being two of the most cherished books ever written, Hollywood executives are slow to put an adaptation into motion for fear of their own careers. To film a version of either of those novels is an extremely risky production – one that can elevate a career to iconic or devalue one to the point of a punchline – so for an actor with the current value of Franco to want to make his feature-length directorial debut with either novel is the gutsiest move this decade will see. That is, of course, if his ambitions come to flower.
And they have! Well, one of them at least. As of last week, Franco has acquired a cast and a team of producers to assist him in realizing one of his many ambitions with his directorial debut – the adaptation of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. Although I have not read the novel — I shamefully admit that I’m not a literature fiend — I find myself waiting in irrevocable anticipation for this feature. I’ve found James Franco to be one of the most determined and dedicated artists of the past decade, one who will always give everything to any performance to ensure that the quality of his work matches his appreciation for being able to do so in such a wonderful industry. I can expect nothing less with him at the helm. What also accelerated my interest was the cast he had gathered for the film. One: Michael Shannon, who James and I both consider the best actor working today. Two: Paul Dano, who I consider one of the most capable performers of today and one who has given one of my favorite performances in There Will Be Blood. Three: Joaquin Phoenix, who isn’t someone I really care for, but who is still equipped with great talent that I’m sure will become nascent once again under Franco’s thumb. Richard Jenkins is also set to be apart of the cast; a finely tuned character actor who can hone in on specific emotions in the most quiet ways.
James Franco is also set to revive his character “Franco” on the daytime soap General Hospital. This, amidst filming his scenes for the Richard Kuklinski bio-thriller The Iceman (also starring Michael Shannon), finishing up his doctorate degree in filmmaking, finishing up indie-drama Maladies with Catherine Keener, working on his hosting duties for Oscar night (not to mention preparing a speech on the off-chance that AMPAS gives him Best Actor over Colin Firth, a win which Franco deserves), getting gears in motion to have his adaptation of Blood Meridian come to light (he’s already piqued the interest of some producers with scene he directed straight from the novel, with full cast and production) and oh yeah, as of yesterday? Preparing for his upcoming Broadway performance in Sweet Bird of Youth opposite Nicole Kidman.
It’s neither the accomplishments or ambition that make James Franco marvelous. Nor is it his age, nor his courage. It’s his spirit. His persona that embraces celebrity, but never perpetuates negativity. He is a man with infinite dedication to his craft and to the preservation of integrity in art.
He’s an artist that I’d love to work with, but be it one year from now or twenty I’m thinking this will never be my reality because I can’t find a reason to imagine that the vigorous work ethic of James Franco will at all diminish with his age, and that even when I’m fifty and James is sixty-three and sporting silver hair, he’ll be too busy doing seven things at once to consider a cinematic partnership with me. But when I am fifty and James is sixty-three that will all be okay because I’ll have experienced his tremendous ability for thirty more years from today.