Posted on Tuesday, January 4th, 2011 by Russ Fischer
Yesterday a lot of people were surprised when word came out that James Franco is actively pursuing two very lofty directorial ambitions — he wants to write and direct film versions of William Faulkner‘s landmark novel As I Lay Dying, and Cormac McCarthy‘s Blood Meridian.
There was some initial skepticism about half of that report, as producer Scott Rudin wrote to IndieWire to suggest that the Blood Meridian news was either premature or incorrect. But now James Franco has done a little interview explaining his approach to both novels. And how does Jacob from Lost fit into all this? Answer after the break.
EW talked to the actor, who linked both texts in a ‘spiritual’ sense, ““I think they go together, though. I think McCarthy is really influenced by Faulkner.” I’d agree with that, very definitely. He says that the Faulkner adaptation would shoot this summer if things work out, and then he’d do Blood Meridian next year.
So how would he shoot As I Lay Dying?
You want to capture the tone, but you can’t work in exactly the same way. I don’t believe it’ll feel the same if you divide it as rigidly as the book, like titles that say ‘Cash’ and then you’re with Cash. 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. Movies, in some ways because they deal in images, are more concrete. I want to be loyal to the book — my approach is to always be loyal in a lot a ways — but in order to be loyal I will have to change some things for the movie.
When it comes to Blood Meridian, the question of casting looms large. Who would play central character The Judge, who is an utter giant of an albino? Well, Franco was so determined to get the gig making the film that he shot some test footage to present to Scott Rudin. And in that footage he cast Mark Pellegrino, aka one of the rug pissers from The Big Lebowski, and Jacob from Lost. (Scott Glenn, Luke Perry and Dave Franco also appeared.) Note that this does not mean that those actors will necessarily be cast in the actual film, whatever happens.
We made that as a way to convince Scott Rudin to give us the rights. It was like, why should he give it to me when Ridley Scott didn’t make it? So I called him up and said, ‘I’m planning on doing this. You don’t have to give me any money, I can finance this shoot. Would you just wait? Don’t do anything with it until I show this to you.’ And I showed it to him and he loved it.
One question that came up yesterday is: what happened to the version of Blood Meridian that Todd Field was going to write and direct? The simple answer is that we don’t know for certain, and given Scott Rudin’s odd response to this news yesterday, I’m more curious than ever. I’d be surprised to learn that it is still kicking, so if you think the idea of the director of Little Children making Blood Meridian seems like a good idea (as I do) then it might be time to let that notion go.
Here’s what it seems like: Franco pitched Blood Meridian to Scott Rudin, but the producer’s vague email to IndieWire yesterday suggests he hasn’t got the gig just yet. Now, if Franco manages to get As I Lay Dying moving forward, and if he makes the film work, then things could change quickly. Blood Meridian has been in development for a long time, and unless the option is close to lapsing, a few more months of waiting isn’t going to change much.