Is James Franco mad about poets? If so, why not? Someone has to keep the art alive in the imagination of mainstream America. The actor played noted ‘Beat’ poet Allen Ginsberg in Howl, and he’s now reportedly set to direct The Broken Tower, which is a biography of the poet Hart Crane (son of the man who invented Life Savers candy) who committed suicide by jumping off a steamship in 1932.

Roger Friedman reports that James Franco will shoot the feature starting two weeks from now. He wrote the script based on the biography, and while talking to Showbiz411 mentioned one actor who may appear in the film: Michael Shannon. Whether he would play Hart Crane, and whether James Franco might act in the film as well, we don’t currently know.

Regardless, this is an impressive addition to Franco’s already packed schedule, and it helps locks the actor as one of the most ambitious and hard-working of his generation.

Here’s a condensed review of The Broken Tower from Publisher’s Weekly:

The first account of Crane to embrace his homosexuality and to assess its place in his poetry, [Paul] Mariani’s biography illuminates previously shadowy corners of the writer’s life. Mariani [does not have the] advantage of having interviewed many who knew Crane. But he compensates by quoting more extensively, and tellingly, from Crane’s correspondence, one of the most revealing and insightful of the literary 20th century. Mariani also has a better grasp on Crane’s complex relationship with his parents, especially in his sensitive portrayal of Crane’s father (the inventor of Life Savers candy), who heretofore has been treated as a stereotypical philistine. Mariani also clears up many misconceptions about Crane’s final despairing months in Mexico and his sole tormented heterosexual affair… His occasionally florid style notwithstanding, Mariani does the necessary work of throwing sympathetic light on Crane’s sexuality, and makes a convincing case for Crane as one of the greatest American poets of the century.

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