James Franco has been very keen on adapting a Cormac McCarthy novel to film. It was going to be Blood Meridian, and Franco in fact shot some test footage (with Mark Pellegrino, Scott Glenn, Dave Franco and Luke Perry) in 2010 to prove to producer Scott Rudin that he had the goods to make the movie. But Franco and Rudin fell out, and so Franco is one of several directors who have tried and failed to bring the challenging Blood Meridian to the screen.

Franco is evidently undaunted on the McCarthy front, however, as he is now reportedly at work on a film version of the author’s third novel Child of God. This one is a bit less challenging than Blood Meridian, but no less intense and, potentially, controversial.

Roger Friedman reports that Franco is shooting the movie now in West Virginia. (He also reports that the Franco version of Blood Meridian is definitely dead.) News of Franco adapting the book first surfaced last fall.

There was some supposition that this could be another ‘test shoot’ sort of scenario, but Friedman says “Franco tells me from the set that the shoot is going extremely well, and he’s very excited about the results.”

The film features Tim Blake Nelson and “a number of West Virginia locals” but it sounds like Franco is in the lead role: “Lester Ballard–a violent, dispossessed man falsely accused of rape–who haunts the hill country of East Tennessee when he is released from jail.”

Amazon describes the book like so,

“Scuttling down the mountain with the thing on his back he looked like a man beset by some ghast succubus, the dead girl riding him with legs bowed akimbo like a monstrous frog.” Child of God must be the most sympathetic portrayal of necrophilia in all of literature. The hero, Lester Ballard, is expelled from his human family and ends up living in underground caves, which he peoples with his trophies: giant stuffed animals won in carnival shooting galleries and the decomposing corpses of his victims. Cormac McCarthy’s much-admired prose is suspenseful, rich with detail, and yet restrained, even delicate, in its images of Lester’s activities. So tightly focused is the story on this one “child of God” that it resembles a myth, or parable.

So this could be almost a one-man show, presumably with Franco in the lead and fairly small supporting roles from the other actors. (Which is too bad in a way; I like Franco, but I’d really like to see Tim Blake Nelson playing the lead.)

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