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James Franco is in early negotiations to star in Fox’s comedy “Why Him?”

A pair of Fox-based production companies — Shawn Levy’s 21 Laps and Ben Stiller’s Red Hour — are producing.

John Hamburg is attached to direct from a script he co-wrote with Nicholas Stoller and Ian Helfer.

The story centers on a Midwestern father who takes his family to visit his daughter — who is attending Stanford — at Christmas and subsequently gets into a competition with his daughter’s boyfriend, a young Internet billionaire.

Franco most recently starred in Sony’s satire “The Interview” with Seth Rogen. He’s completed work on “Queen of the Desert,” which premiered at Berlin, “True Story” and “The Adderall Diaries,” and will star in Hulu’s adaptation of Stephen King’s “11/22/63.”

Hamburg directed and wrote “I Love You, Man” and “Along Came Polly.” Stoller directed “Neighbors.”

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I have add photos from the SNL 40th Anniversary Celebration to the gallery.


Later this year, Hollywood superstar James Franco will come out with a new film whose animating concept is so confusing it takes an entire article to explain and contextualize it.

Here’s what happened: a few years ago, Franco listened to some songs by The Smiths to help him write poems that he later compiled into a poetry collection entitled Directing Herbert White. He then turned those Smiths-influenced poems back into Smiths- and poetry-influenced songs. He then gave those songs to high school students in Palo Alto and asked them to translate the songs into a third creative genre—cinematic screenplay—and based on the resulting screenplays, he and his band Daddy (yes, he has a band) wrote an album’s worth of new Smiths-, poetry-, and screenplay-inspired songs. The student screenplays have now been produced, and, with the aid of songs by Daddy, comprise a film called Let Me Get What I Want.

You can watch the first music video to emerge from this project here .

The upshot here is that Franco has engineered a compositional process that mirrors the way culture moves in the Internet Age: from one genre to another, with each successive genre translating (and also mistranslating) the same source material in its own way. The best part is that not only is Franco letting us see the results at each stage in the process, but his “final” product—a film and its accompanying soundtrack—offers us both listenable music and watchable film, making it not only a suitably complex concept-driven artwork but also a likely entertaining one. If avant-garde literary artists and filmmakers are pissed at Franco, as they usually and currently are, they have a right to be—but only because Franco has a (to them) unimaginable budget, not because the ideas Franco is working with are subpar. They’re not subpar; frankly, they’re pretty great. It’s not a popular thing to say, but it’s not a difficult position to defend. If the late novelist David Foster Wallace once criticized the American postmodernism of the 1980s and 1990s as “hellaciously un-fun,” and in doing so prophesied the imminent demise of postmodernism (and its poster-child irony) as a generative cultural paradigm, young artists like Franco have taken the hint and begun producing avant-garde art that’s at once cerebral and a visceral delight.

In lauding Franco as I do here, don’t misunderstand me: plenty of writers and filmmakers are coming up with ideas just as good as Franco’s, they’re just not coming up with as many of them all at once, and in so many different genres, and all while living a life in the public eye that’s equal parts “hounded celebrity” and “pariah for every disappointed artiste-cum-barista from Seattle to D.C.” Those who hate Franco’s art, and the (to them) obscure motivations that drive its production in such copious volume, are the sort of artists who have always hated those who step outside anticipated roles. These artists often find ways to double down on the status quo without seeming to be doing so—they maintain their bohemian street cred even as they strangle in its crib any audacious innovations in art. In the end, though, Franco’s critics are profoundly misunderstanding what they’re critiquing. They believe themselves superior to Franco as artists if they can (variously) write a better screenplay than Franco, write a better poem than Franco, and so on—when in fact Franco’s creative persona has nothing to do with quality per se, and everything to do with the new byword in the arts: interdisciplinarity.

Franco masterfully coordinates multiple genres, discrete disciplines, and disparate resources in a way the rest of us can’t, not only because we’re poorer but because, generally, we’re not as smart or creative as Franco is within his own context—that context being a life of limitless resources, staggering visibility, and a restlessness that many celebrities deal with through moral sloth or gestural charity work. While it’s true that much of Franco’s smarts and creativity are attributable to him being wealthy and famous enough to know and collaborate with some very smart and talented people, even here we must say that the ability to aggregate talent is both rare generally and vanishingly rare among the Hollywood elite—even as it’s perhaps the most critical skill an artist can possess in our present age of collaboration and intertextuality. Postmodern dialectics have given way to metamodern dialogue, and Franco knows it.

In other words, given his local and cultural contexts, Franco is, conceptually speaking, hitting the ball out of the ballpark nine times out of ten. His projects, both Let Me Get What I Want and its immediate predecessors, are conceptually astute even when (sometimes particularly when) they fail as individual artworks. Is Directing Herbert White a particularly good book of poetry? No. Is it any good at all? Not really, at least if we judge it using conventional standards of craft, form, and imagination. But the concept behind the book, that being to have a famous person unabashedly write earnest poems about what a celebrity’s life is like—which, judging from American culture, is all anyone wants to know about celebrities anyway—is ingenious in its way. We didn’t get that kind of fan service from Jewel, or Billy Corgan, or Leonard Nimoy, or any of the other Hollywood darlings who’ve decided to try their hand at poetry. Franco writes poems entirely responsive to who he is to us as well as who he is to himself, and in making that difficult and perhaps unintentionally selfless decision he’s exhibited a sensitivity to context which, surprisingly, even today’s most multi-generic artists seem to lack. Indeed, American poetry—by way of example—has repeatedly made national headlines over the past couple years for its brazen commitment to giving exactly no one in America what they want, for doing almost nothing to write verse that reflects the culture in which it’s being written, and meanwhile—on top of that—for arguing loudly about how it’s preposterous to expect it to do otherwise. Franco has made a different decision, and in the context of his cross-generic career it’s clear that that decision was motivated by the actor’s artistic vision rather than financial gain. Franco doesn’t need the cash, after all.

It’s time for the Franco hate to stop. Viewed at the level of a career rather than on the level of individual artworks, Franco is Hollywood’s most interesting, daring, and multi-faceted artist. Hating on him is not only easy to do but also easy to justify as coming from a protective instinct—that is, the idea that the arts must be protected from the intrusion of dilettantes like Franco. In fact, the anti-Franco madness is as retrograde, conservative, and reactionary as any inclination we find in the arts today. It says that not only should we all stay within our generic and subcultural boxes, but that delivering anticipated results is always preferable to displaying uncommon (even if only intermittently winning) daring. In fact, the reverse is true, a premise for which Franco is the poster-child. In light of the age we live in, and the explorations of genre and how artists live and interconnect that should be happening right now across all genres, the truth is that James Franco is as intelligent and creative as any of his peers, and perhaps much more so.

Seth Abramson is the author of five poetry collections, including two, Metamericana and DATA, forthcoming in 2015 and 2016. Currently a doctoral candidate at University of Wisconsin-Madison, he is also Series Co-Editor for Best American Experimental Writing, whose next edition will be published by Wesleyan University Press in 2015.

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Truth is stranger than fiction in the new film True Story, a cinematic blend of the journalistic morality tale Shattered Glass and a John Grisham legal thriller from the ‘90s. It has a basic structure, and while its execution may also seem familiar, the film as a whole still manages to entertain.

James Franco and Jonah Hill lead the cast of True Story, and it should be stated upfront that the film is a drama based on the real life cat-and-mouse game between a disgraced reporter and a detained prisoner. Some audiences may find it hard to get past the duo’s comedic baggage to take them seriously in a drama such as this, but the transition is easier to accept than you’d think. For starters, both men have Academy Award nominations to prove their worth in dramas, but if that’s not enough, the film makes it very clear from its first scene that the tone will be anything but comedic. Franco and Hill have come to stretch their dramatic muscles in True Story and despite the film’s shortcomings, the pair’s acting chops is not one of them.

True Story is based on ex-New York Times reporter Michael Finkel’s memoir of the same name. In the film, we are introduced to Finkel (Hill) just as he’s getting the boot at the prestigious paper for falsifying the details of his latest cover story. Expecting a Pulitzer instead of a pink slip, Finkel retreats to the countryside with his tail between his legs and the support of his girlfriend (Felicity Jones, in an underwritten role). After some time in seclusion, he’s contacted by Christian Longo (Franco), a fan of his work who also happens to be on trial for murder. With nothing else to do and a nagging curiosity tempting him at every turn, the two men meet in Longo’s detention cell and actually hit it off. But the more the two men talk, the more the hidden agendas start to reveal themselves, building to a climax most will see coming a mile away.

The film is the directorial debut of Rupert Goold and while it’s competent enough and knows how to get the job done, there isn’t any extra layer of pop or tension to bring it to life. It stagnantly goes through the motions and never comes alive. Franco and Hill do a great job of anchoring the story with the limited tools they’ve been given, but Felicity Jones is the one in the core trio to get the shaft story-wise. When the screenplay decides to beef up her character and actually get her involved in the main story, it’s way too late. By then she’s already been written-off as a one-note character, and to make matters worse, the task her character is given is the most laughable and out of left field in the movie.

True Story is entertaining in parts, but way too by-the-numbers to merit any genuine surprise or recommendation. Franco and Hill are continuing to put in solid dramatic work and I wish them well as they continue their struggle to break out of comedy jail.

Rating: B-

True Story premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and opens nationwide April 10.

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James Franco may be one of the busiest men in Hollywood. The actor had two movies that were filmed at the Sundance Film Festival in January, he is set to star in the upcoming Hulu program 11/22/63, he is teaching college courses at three different universities, and now, he is set to both act and direct in a new movie which begins production in March.

In his latest project, Franco is set to direct an adaptation of John Steinbeck’s In Dubious Battle. While the book might not be considered one of the better
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known works from this particular author, the actor, who has a Bachelor’s degree in English, has a fascination with all types of literature.

This is not Franco’s first time delving into a literary based movie. In the 2010 movie, Howl, the actor starred as Allen Ginsberg. He has directed and acted in such films as the biopic about the poet Hart Crane in The Broken Tower and the novel by William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury. Franco is also starring in the upcoming adaptation of The Little Prince, which is set for release at some point this year.

In Dubious Battle was originally published by Steinbeck in 1936. It is considered by some to be one of the author’s first major literary works. The story is set in the 1930’s and is a portrayal of the struggles between capital
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and labor in America at the time. This particular story takes place in a fictional area in California and explores common themes in most of Steinbeck’s novels. Themes that the author portrays in most of his works, including in this particular piece, include social injustices, the inhumanity that man does against each other and different group behaviors.

In this adaptation of Steinbeck’s novel, Franco will be directing, and the story will follow a labor activist who is attempting to organize a strike among the fruit pickers in California’s southern region. The book was adapted into a screenplay by Matt Rager. He has previously worked with the actor on a few different projects. Rager is the same person to create the screenplay for Franco’s The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying.

For this project, Franco has brought together such stars as Selena Gomez, Robert Duvall, Vincent D’Onofrio and Ed Harris. In the film the actor is playing the lead role of Jim Nolan, the man who is set to lead field workers in a strike against the growers’ association in the area. There is no word yet on which characters the other actors will be portraying in the movie.

Fans of Franco will have a number of opportunities to see the actor at work this year. Not only will he be starring in the Hulu project 11/22/63, but he will also be one of the stars of In Dubious Battle. Franco can be seen this year in the upcoming adaptation of Steinbeck’s novel, which he will both direct and act in, or in one of his other films such as I Am Michael and The Adderall Diaries.

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7 Hours actor will star as a high school English teacher who travels back in time to try and stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The project is a nine-hour event series produced by J.J. Abrams and writer-producer Bridget Carpenter and based on Stephen King’s 2011 bestseller of the same title.

The series will mark the return of Franco to the small screen, where he launched his career in Fox’s cult-favorite Freaks and Geeks in 1999 and had a recurring role on General Hospital.

Hulu’s 11/22/63 is expected to fully cover the self-contained story in King’s novel. What happens after that will likely depend on the project’s performance, but the show presumably could be a franchise that includes additional seasons tackling different historic events.

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James Franco has signed with Untitled for management, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. Until late 2013, he had been with James Levy Management for about two decades.

That firm’s partners, Miles Levy and Randy James, sued one another last April over, in part, claims that Levy concealed Franco commissions from the rest of the company. They settled in July.

The Interview star is coming off the Berlin bows of Queen of the Desert and Wim Wenders’ Every Thing Will Be Fine, following the Sundance premieres of True Story and I Am Michael. He is directing an adaptation of John Steinbeck’s In Dubious Battle, which will star an ensemble including Selena Gomez, Vincent D’Onofrio, Robert Duvall, Ed Harris, Bryan Cranston and Danny McBride.

Franco continues to be repped by CAA and Sloane Offer.

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I have add photos from the ‘I Am Michael’ Press Conference – 65th Berlinale International Film to the gallery.


I have add photos from Queen Of The Desert’ press conference & Queen of the Desert’ Photocall – 65th Berlinale International Film Festival to the gallery.


'Queen of the Desert' Photocall - 65th Berlinale International Film Festival

BERLIN — Nicole Kidman, James Franco and Damian Lewis spoke about their experience of working with director Werner Herzog, vultures and camels at a Berlin press conference Friday for Herzog’s “Queen of the Desert,” which plays in competition at the Berlin Film Festival.

The film centers on explorer Gertrude Bell, who has been described as “the female Lawrence of Arabia.” Bell traveled across the Middle East in the first decades of the 20th century, and helped define the borders of the region’s emerging nations.

But despite her decisive political role, it was Bell’s inner life that Herzog sought to capture. “Her interior life was more fascinating than the political complications of the last years of her life,” Herzog said.

It was Bell’s romantic affairs with James Franco and Damian Lewis’ characters — Henry Cadogan and Charles Doughty-Wylie — that engaged Herzog’s interest. Franco said that it was the first time Herzog had shot a film with love storylines so “it was fun for me to watch Werner figure out these scenes that he didn’t have tons of experience doing. It was almost like watching a master tackle something new,” Franco said.

The director said that the chemistry between Kidman and Franco was critical.

“When you cast a film, chemistry is everything,” Herzog said. “If the chemistry is not functioning you are lost with a story and lost as a director, and I think it was very easy for Nicole to connect as an actress with two great actors [Franco and Lewis], but there was more than just great acting, there was some internal chemistry.”

Kidman said the location, Morocco, also played an important role in the film. “Werner chooses to go to the places where his movies are set. He is not a green-screen type of guy. The beauty of that landscape, and I have a huge love of the desert, infiltrates the relationships,” Kidman said.

She added that one of her favorite scenes was when she and Franco climbed a tower, where a vulture was sitting. She said that Herzog had found the vulture, with its owner, by the side of the road and decided to put it into the film. Franco added that the vulture was not trained for such screen roles, and tried to peck Kidman, but luckily it was on a leash.

Later Franco and Kidman run off into the desert and kiss. “We get to kiss in this vast landscape, in this desert, and that is just exquisite as an actor to be in the actual place that we are meant to be,” she said.

Herzog said that “there was something in the landscape that was extraordinary and the desert hasn’t been filmed like this before.” He said that they filmed in a real sandstorm, and some of the lenses were damaged because of this.

He said it was not just focused on the desert but also the people in the desert, the Bedouins. “It is about the Bedouins and the dignity of life under Islam. There is a certain warmth about what we encountered out there. Nicole Kidman’s character, Gertrude Bell, immediately falls in love with this world, and the texture of what we see there — a world that has been somehow vilified and demonized in the media recently. And there are reasons for that, of course. But it shows a different side of that. The story makes it necessary that there are all these interactions, including with a young Lawrence of Arabia, who plays a small part here. So it is a big tapestry.”

Kidman said that on the same day that she arrived in Morocco she had to learn to ride a camel, but she took these challenges in her stride. “I’m at a place in my life where I’m looking to go to different countries and explore new stories, and push out of my comfort zone. I don’t want to be sitting at home and driving to the studio to make a movie. So when Werner said would I go to Morocco and live in the desert with him, I said: ‘Can I take my children?,’ and he said: ‘Yes, there’ll be a tent for the children.”

Herzog said Kidman had “an incredible work ethic,” and appears in every scene in the film, with the exception of the first one.

Talking about the importance of locations, he said: “I have always considered the landscape — for example the jungle in ‘Fitzcarraldo’ — to be an inner landscape, the landscape of fever dreams. Here the desert is also an inner landscape, something that is inside of [Gertrude Bell’s] heart and becomes part of her character. That is a transformation that I know how to do and what I get paid for.”

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