Zeroville movie

The novel Zeroville, by Steve Erickson, is a cracking, funny, wildly perceptive book about New Hollywood. It’s a piece of fiction rooted in history, in which an alienated young man who loves movies with a burning intensity makes his way to Los Angeles in 1969. There, he gradually meets a variety of filmmaker types (including John Milius and Martin Scorsese) as his own fortunes rise in the movie business. This book is a movie lover’s dream — if you haven’t read it, find a copy as soon as possible. The only reason to put it down might be to make time to watch all the films it’ll create a desire to see.

The novel’s main character, “Vikar” Jerome, sports a shaved head decorated with a tattoo of Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor as they appear in the 1951 movie A Place in the Sun. And that’s why James Franco is wandering around the Venice Film Festival with a shaved, tattooed head. Franco is directing and starring in an adaptation of Zeroville, and I’m trying to figure out what to think about that.

Franco originally optioned Zeroville in 2011. We hadn’t heard much about it until this week, when Franco posted an image to Instagram.

Then Franco showed up at Venice with the tattoo inked on. You can check Variety for the image, which pretty well emulates the look of the book cover above. At the fest, where he was scheduled to receive the “Glory to the Filmmaker” award, he took the opportunity to shoot a scene in character for Zeroville while he had the Venice stage.

I like Franco a lot, and respect that he just dives into ambitious adaptations. But I like Zeroville a lot more than I like Franco. I’m hoping that he’s got a great plan for this one. It needs to be a period piece, as it is specifically related to a particular time in film history, and it has a not quite minor globe-trotting aspect. More than anything else, it requires a rich supporting cast to bring to life the cast of oddballs that made ’70s Hollywood unique. I don’t just want this film to work; I want the adaptation to be a proper companion piece to the book.

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