News Column

James Franco: We spoke with the actor-director about 'As I Lay Dying'

October 13, 2013


Oct. 13--"As I Lay Dying," the seminal 1930 novel by William Faulkner, is known for being a dense and difficult work that has tortured high school students. But polymath James Franco is hoping to turn it into a cinematic treasure.

The actor-director-writer-student-model has written and directed an adaptation of what Franco considers one of the defining books of his youth.

amNewYork spoke with Franco about his latest film, what it means to him and more. You can find it at the AMC Empire now and on demand and iTunes soon.

Why did you decide to tackle such a notoriously difficult book?

It's been a favorite book of mine for a long time, back to high school. I remember one weekend I just stayed in and read that book while my friends were out and partying and whatever. From that moment on, I just had this very strong connection to the book.

Why is this the right moment in your career to tackle this?

After a decade as an actor usually projects are brought to me, they're set up, and they're cast, and that's when I would come onto the scene. Now that I was learning to direct, I realized that this is where I get to stop complaining about movies that were offered to me and I got to startdeciding what I really wanted to make. That's one of the reasons to direct, to initiate the projects you really want to do.

How has being a student in so many areas affected the way you approached this film?

When I was in film school we had to make a series of short forms, so I started adapting poems, and what I found was that it made me think about filmmaking in unconventional ways. I wasn't jus thinking about linear narrative, characters interacting, I started thinking more about tone and rhythms and stuff like that. So the fact that each chapter of this book is told from a different character's perspective, that's something I knew would push me to make a movie in a way I wouldn't normally make.

You're also working on "The Sound and the Fury." What's with adapting all of this classic lit? Is that intimidating?

I do feel a great responsibility. I get a chance to do these things, but beause they're American classic I have a real obligation to get it right. But that same pressure pushes me to do better, and I like that. It makes me work harder because I feel like I need to rise to a certain level.

The film recently shifted from a theatrical release to only being released for iTunes and Video On Demand. Now it's out in an NYC theater after all. Why was that?

That was really all kind of a miscommunication. They were depending on me to promote the film ? it's just that I've been very busy acting or directing. So I guess they just thought I wasn't gonna be able to promote it ? so they just went with this VOD thing. We went back and said I could promote it, so they said they'll release it in New York and maybe wider based on how well it does in New York. ? It was really a miscommunication, unfortunately.


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