We already knew a little bit about Frank or Francis, Charlie Kaufman‘s second directorial effort after his insanely ambitious, gloriously bizarre Synecdoche, New York. Basically, we were aware that it existed, that Nicolas Cage, Steve Carrell, and Jack Black had signed on, and that the film would revolve primarily around the feud between an Internet blogger and a Hollywood director. But this being Kaufman, of course, there was bound to be a whole lot more to the project than that.

Now, we have lots more details on the story — and the more I learn, the more I’m dying to see this film. After the jump, read all about the script, and find out which very weird role(s) Kevin Kline has just been cast in.

First, let’s get the simpler stuff out of the way. Variety writes that Kline is now attached to play two supporting characters in the film. The first, Richard Waller, is the brother of Jonathan Waller, whose fictional hit Hiroshima becomes the highest-grossing movie of all time but fails to win Best Picture. Richard and Jonathan team up to create an animatronic head called Richard’s Head, which is programmed to develop the perfect script: totally inoffensive, with the widest possible appeal and no artistic integrity whatsoever. The robot head is Kline’s second role.

If that didn’t make a whole lot of sense, perhaps a more detailed description of the story will clear things up. (Actually, it won’t, but I needed a segue.) The Playlist got their hands on the script, which they’re describing as “the ne plus ultra of Charlie Kaufman-esque.” What does that mean, exactly? Well, true to form, Kaufman didn’t just write a story about online film criticism or even the movie industry as a whole — that would be too simple. The expansive and “hyper meta-textual” project also covers “society, culture, human nature (and race) and human behavior” in addition to “the entire [movie-making] machine.” It’s definitely worth heading over to their site to read their detailed explanation, but here are a few of the major points

The story follows three main characters. They are:

  • Frank Arder (Carell), a pretentious writer/director whose film You gets nominated for 29 Academy Awards. Arder also plays every single role in You including the lead character, a homeless man.
  • Francis (Black), an Internet troll who’s earned some notoriety by posting caustic commentaries on the movie industry. Offline, however, he’s simply a self-important jackass who lives in his parents’ attic.
  • Alan Modell (Cage), a fading comedian tasked with hosting the Oscars. He’s best known for his idiotic Fat Dad series of films — think The Fatties from Tropic Thunder.

Frank, Francis, and Alan’s plot threads run parallel to each other, touching only occasionally until the “outrageous” conclusion. Got it? Good, now add in:

  • a cheating subplot for Frank and his wife;
  • a central love story for Francis;
  • “a Romanian waitress and two talking ghost-like thumbs who have a Romanian political agenda”;
  • and the aforementioned Richard’s Head.

Then toss in the fact that about half the dialogue is sung, musical-style. Seriously. Apparently, this tends to happen particularly often when characters are writing on the Internet.

It’s still early enough in the process that some of the stuff described above could change, but it seems like a fantastic start, and quite Kaufman-esque indeed. I was a huge, huge fan of Synecdoche, New York, a glorious mess of a movie that in the space of 124 minutes attempted to tackle the gigantic topics of love, creativity, mortality, self-importance, and more. Frank or Francis sounds every bit as poignant, ambitious, and weird, and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes of it.

The project is currently casting, most notably for two female roles that require singing. (Frank and Francis’ love interests, perhaps?) Shooting on the film is scheduled to start in January.

Let’s wind down this post with some of Kaufman’s own thoughts on the project. Here’s him talking to Time Out London (via The Playlist):

If I look at some of the things in the script that I’m about to embark on, I’d have to say I don’t really have any idea how we’re going to do it… The movie I’m about to do has got a lot of scenes and a lot of characters. And the scope of it and the world it inhabits is very, very large. In the broadest possible sense, it’s about online film criticism, but as usual, the world that I’m writing about is not necessarily the world that I’m writing about. It’s just a place to set it. There’s a lot in there about the internet and anger: cultural, societal and individual anger. And isolation in this particular age we live in. And competition: it’s about the idea of people in this world wanting to be seen. I hate to use the word “about”, as it implies that what I’m doing is an analogy and that I’m trying to say something. I’m not. That’s for the audience to do.

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