Month: October 2015

James Franco on Adapting ‘The Sound and the Fury’: ‘I Enjoy Unusual Storytelling’

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Ultimate multi-hyphenate James Franco has tackled seemingly everything from “Spider-Man” to Steinbeck, and he shows few signs of slowing down. Franco’s latest endeavor finds him directing and starring in an adaptation of William Faulkner’s notoriously tricky “The Sound and the Fury,” which bowed at the Venice Film Festival last year and hits theaters and on-demand services on Friday.

Calling in from the set of HBO’s “The Deuce” (“I’ve got my producer’s hat on today,” he said), Franco spoke to Variety about the experience of adapting American literary classics for the big screen — living up to his scholarly reputation in the process.

What made you decide to direct “The Sound and the Fury”?

There were a lot of reasons. I’ve loved Faulkner since I was a teenager. I had done a Faulkner adaptation before this, “As I Lay Dying,” and I knew from that experience that Faulkner’s books are written in very unconventional ways and structured in nonlinear ways, or experimental kind of ways. In trying to adapt that for the screen, I was pushed in directions that I wouldn’t have gone in as a filmmaker otherwise.

I really enjoyed that. I really enjoy unusual storytelling. It had everything I wanted: great characters, good drama and a very unusual approach.

What can you say about the experience of playing Benjy? Your performance looks so physically demanding.

Benjy is one of the most famous characters in American literature. For my performance, my only source was the book. I wanted to just play him as he was described in the book: he doesn’t speak, he can’t articulate words, he only makes noises. But then on the other hand, the whole first section of the book is told from his perspective. So he somehow has an inner voice, he just can’t speak to other people.

What I found is that this performance was all behavior. When I was in acting school, my teacher would always say, “The behavior is the most important, and the words are secondary. Get the behavior down, and the words will float on top of the behavior.” And so it was kind of great to play a character that was all behavior. I had to communicate everything through behavior. But I’ve also learned that as an actor — even though I was also directing this — I’ve learned that as an actor that you depend on the context of scenes, the wardrobe department, the other actors — everyone else around you helps reveal characters.

You’ve also been involved with a few Steinbeck adaptations. Would you say you’re particularly drawn to that era of American literature?

Yeah, I am. When I was in high school, Faulkner, Hemingway, Steinbeck and Melville were my guys. I’ve liked them ever since then. Last year I did “Of Mice and Men” on Broadway, and that really rebooted my Steinbeck interest. So I was thinking about, “Well, what would make a good movie?” “Of Mice and Men” was a good book, and there are already two movie adaptations. And I thought, actually, “Of Mice and Men” as a play was its best form, because the experience of the characters embodied by actors, get the the characters live, you get to make that emotional connection that you can make with an actor that’s different than the emotional connection you make with a book. If you look at “Of Mice and Men,” the way the action is staged is very small, very insulated… And so a single stage is actually the best frame for that story.

I didn’t want to do “Of Mice and Men” as a movie, and so I looked and I thought, oh, there are informally called “The Dustbowl Trilogy”: “Of Mice and Men,” “Grapes of Wrath,” and then the lesser-known one is “In Dubious Battle,” which is about an apple pickers’ strike. And I just thought, it’s the lesser of the three books, just because Steinbeck was still sort of figuring things out. I think it was the first one he wrote of the three. But I thought as a movie, it will actually work better than “Of Mice and Men.” It has this sort of rising tension. The tension keeps building. It’s these migrant apple pickers versus the landowners. And they go on strike and tension builds and builds and builds. One side attacks the other, the other side retaliates, and vice versa. It sort of explodes at the end. I just thought that on screen, that would require more scope, it has many more characters, and it would just be much more cinematic.

After you’ve been involved with so many adaptations, when you read a book for the first time now, do you find yourself having immediate thoughts about casting and staging?

Yeah. [Laughs.] Yeah, I just do it automatically. I don’t rule out any book as an adaptation after doing “The Sound and the Fury” and “As I Lay Dying.” There are some books where I think it’s just an awesome book but I don’t know how I would ever adapt it — but not many! I kind of think about most books as somehow adaptable.

And then there’s one that I’ll read and I get that tingle. It’s like, “Oh, I want to do something more with this. I want to have a conversation with this book. I want to pay homage to this book by making a movie out of it.” And it doesn’t happen with every book, and it’s not even every book that I love. But there’s some, and you just get that feeling like, “Yeah, I’ve got to try to do this.”

Did having your book “Palo Alto” adapted for the screen by someone else affect the way that you approach adaptations?

Actually, yeah, I think so. I wrote that book when I was in writing school. I was amongst writers and I was writing it just to write a book. I wasn’t thinking about a movie. But as soon as it was done, I had been in movies for a decade and a half at that point, and I thought, “All right, we could do a movie out of this!” I immediately knew that I didn’t want to do it myself. If I did, it would just be one more iteration of my version of things. I wanted somebody else to do their take on it. Gia (Coppola) was a recently graduated photography student at that time, and I saw her photos and the videos she’d made and I just thought she had the perfect sensibility for it. She hadn’t made a movie, but I thought if anybody has moviemaking in her blood, it’s her. I sort of took a chance on her and it paid off.

What I’ve found is if I had adapted it, I probably would have just — it’s a collection of interconnected short stories, so I probably would have just kept it as different episodes, as it is in the book. What she did is she took the different stories and wove them together and combined them. I thought that was awesome. It gave the whole movie a coherent arc. It gave the characters more dimension, and I don’t think I would have done that if I had done it myself. She really teased out a lot of the throughline.

I think it’s had a huge influence on me. I teach filmmaking at USC and UCLA, and every class I teach is production-based, so the class will collaborate on a feature film project, but I have to break it down into different sections because I’ll have four directors and four writers, or sometimes even more. Because of the way that Gia wove the stories in my book together, instead of making four short films, I’ll have the class weave them together so it becomes a unified feature film. I would attribute a lot of that to the way Gia did “Palo Alto.”

Why is now the right time for audiences to be experiencing Faulkner again?

[Laughs.] Well, I think any time is great to be interested in Faulkner. For me, it was interesting to do this at this time because the books “The Sound and the Fury” and “As I Lay Dying” were written over 80 years ago, and if they were made in that time, it would be very different because people made movies differently then. Nowadays movie audiences are pretty sophisticated. Music videos, reality TV, reality TV confessionals — all of these weird techniques have accustomed audiences to read film and video in new ways.

I thought, “Faulkner’s books are so experimental, I can apply a lot of these contemporary approaches and techniques to Faulkner and actually achieve a closer stylistic adaptation of the novels by using these contemporary techniques.”

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James Franco Plays Both Rachel and Joey in a “Very Special” Episode of Friends

You’re going to need a little bit of background information before you watch this video, so here goes: James Franco does this web series called Making a Scene With James Franco for AOL. For each episode, they randomly pick an iconic series and a TV trope to pair it with. This time, it’s Friends and the “Very Special Episode.” Franco takes on double duty as Joey and Rachel, who, along with the crew, confront Marcel about his diva-like behavior

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James Franco, Seth Rogen Drama ‘The Sound and the Fury’ Lands Release Date

New Films International will release James Franco‘s adaptation of William Faulkner‘s novel “The Sound and the Fury” on Oct. 23 in 11 theatrical markets as well as on VOD, the company announced Monday.
Franco stars alongside his “Pineapple Express” co-stars Seth Rogen and Danny McBride, as well as Ahna O’Reilly (“The Help”), Scott Haze, Joey King and Tim Blake Nelson.
“The Sound and the Fury” is based on Faulkner’s Nobel Prize-winning book of the same name, which was published in 1929. Set in Jefferson, Mississippi, the novel centers around the Compson family, former Southern aristocrats who are struggling to deal with the dissolution of their family and its reputation. Over the course of 30 years, the family falls into financial ruin, loses its religious faith and the respect of the town of Jefferson. Many of them die tragically.
Also Read: Scott Haze, James Franco Discuss Their New LA Theater, Upcoming Projects (Exclusive)
Matt Rager adapted the novel, which is the director Franco’s second Faulkner adaptation following “As I Lay Dying,” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.
“While most people recognize James Franco as a talented actor, we are excited to highlight him as a director with a keen eye for narrative stories. Coupled with his love of literature, we think ‘The Sound and the Fury’ is a wonderful addition to the New Film International slate,” said NFI president Nesim Hason.
Caroline Aragon of Made In Film-Land, Lee Caplin of Usonian Media Group, Vince Jolivette of RabbitBandini Productions and Miles Levy produced the film, which was executive produced by Nesim Hason of New Films International, Straw Weisman of Marquee Productions, Sezin Hason and Eddie Siman.

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Mazel Tov! James Franco Joined by Miley Cyrus, Seth Rogen & More at Star-Studded Bar Mitzvah

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Down on Sunset Boulevard, the sun has set on this Saturday (Oct. 17) sabbath and for one night only at the Hollywood Palladium, actor James Franco will finally become a man. Mazel tov!
In the Jewish culture (Franco’s mother is Jewish), when a male celebrates his 13th birthday he takes to the pulpit of a synagogue, recites a portion of the Torah and has a stereotypically lavish celebration for friends and family who are encouraged to shower him with gifts. Franco, however, never enjoyed this rite of passage as a 13-year-old.

For an evening here billed as “James Franco’s Bar Mitzvah,” 37-year-old Franco has prepared the portion of Noah, he says, by watching the Darren Aronofsky directed movie on Netflix. Not yet circumcised he’s encouraged by the evening’s host — his partner-in-crime and best friend Seth Rogen — to have a mock onstage circumcision by “Rabbi Goldblum” (i.e. Jeff Goldblum), who enters reciting a Hebrew blessing over Franco’s soon-to-be-forgotten foreskin.
This is swiftly followed by a Jewish hora dance also done at weddings, expertly led by Jewish rock trio Haim with frontwoman Danielle on drums and bassist Este on lead vocals. She belts out “Hava Nagila” as the band is joined by a line of hora dancers onstage. There’s also a magician, as often found at bar mitzvahs, and a live party band to close out the evening named Miley Cyrustein & The Super Jews (fronted by Miley Cyrus in a blue leotard with an enormous Star of David around her frame).

Except, this slim interpretation of what constitutes a bar mitzvah is all for a good cause, namely Hilarity For Charity. The event was also broadcast on live on Funny Or Die. Franco’s three-hour lavish celebration-turned-variety-show does involve highly generous cash endowments, but all from bidding members of the audience who are donating to an organization birthed by Rogen and wife, Lauren Miller Rogen, in 2012.

One item for auction is a yarmulke — the skullcaps Jewish men cover their heads with at such traditional occasions. Instead of being inscribed in the typical fashion (“in celebration of James Franco’s Bar Mitzvah”), this particular yarmulke is signed by Rogen and comedian Bill Hader, who was also in attendance. It went for $3,400, despite Hader’s berating of every bidder: “For this?!” he jests, goading several wealthy members of the audience.

Saturday was less about bar mitzvahs and more about mitzvahs, which is Jewish lingo for “good deeds.” There was a lot of Jewish lingo. Serviettes line the bars, scrawled with the words: “Wipe that schmutz off your face.” It’s exceedingly silly, but it’s also intended to take the sting out of something that isn’t silly at all.

Now in its fourth year, Hilarity For Charity raises awareness of Alzheimer’s Disease among younger generations. As Lauren Miller Rogen, whose mother was diagnosed with the disease, informed guests that the charity had already made over $4 million in as many years. And the event reaped a cool $2 million before the evening’s action even began.

When things kicked off, they were accompanied by a familiar kletzmer violin from the introduction to Fiddler on the Roof. Seth Rogen enters dressed as lead character Tevye, banging on his chest and hollering “Tradition!” (again, please note that this is not officially part of proceedings at bar mitzvahs; Fiddler on the Roof centers around three marriages, and there are no sons to speak of).

Rogen explained the reasoning behind this year’s theme for the evening. He has been on a quest to recruit “better looking Jews” to the faith, hence encouraging Franco to be bar mitzvah’d several weeks ago at his house (it happened, we see the footage). Saturday was a far cry from Rogen’s own bar mitzvah, which he recalled saw him “trying to get a hand job as Cotton Eyed Joe played”.

This was an evening of side-splitting laughter, overwhelming audience generosity, rousing insights into the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease and bountiful hospitality. The ultimate highlight, however, came with Rogen’s final introduction.

“This is so much better than when they played ‘Barbie Girl’ at my bar mitvah,” he said, as a band of men in muscle suits take to their instruments.

“The Super Jews” were joined by their frontwoman Cyrus, who knows how to get a bar mitzvah party started — with a cover of Rick James’ “Super Freak.” “Things are going to get a bit ridiculous,” she said. “And that’s coming from someone who flew around on a giant hotdog for 20,000 people for several months last year.”

From the ridiculous to the sublime, she took on a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man” and dedicated it to the bar mitzvah boy himself. As she thrusted her leotard-encased hips into her mic stand, her long braided extensions swing from side to side in a high-knotted pony tail on her head, and she momentarily reminded me of legendary punk Ari Up, if Ari had entered the Eurovision song contest on behalf of Israel instead of becoming the frontwoman of The Slits.

This is only my second ever bar mitzvah,” Cyrus said. “And this song hadn’t come out last time I went to one. But I hear it pops the f–k off when they do it at a bar mitzvah.”

She stormed into an acoustic version of her own global smash “We Can’t Stop,” which did indeed get things turnt in time for the grand finale and a last request from Seth Rogen. Only a former bar mitzvah boy knows the ultimate number to end an evening of schvitzy dance floor shape-shifting. It’s “Shout” by Lulu, and Miley had the pipes to deliver.

As everyone jumped up on stage to join her, including all of this evening’s entertainers, things turned into a big old mess. The charitable earnings prove that you don’t always have to grow up to get the job done.

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[Gallery Update] Hilarity for Charity Variety Show James Franco’s Bar Mitzvah add to the site

I have add photos from Hilarity for Charity Variety Show James Franco’s Bar Mitzvah to the gallery

James Franco Bar Mitzvah Will Stream Live

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Not one of the chosen people who will attend James Franco’s Bar Mitzvah on Saturday?
No problem, for the Palo Alto native’s coming of age party will stream live from Los Angeles at 8 p.m. Saturday on free app go90, according to StyleCaster.
Franco graduated from Palo Alto High School in 1996 but will ritually become a man this weekend at a service hosted by his friend Seth Rogen’s Hilarity for Charity organization at the Hollywood Palladium. Proceeds benefit the Alzheimer’s Association.
This will double as Hilarity for Charity’s fourth annual variety show. People reported that last year’s event raised almost $1 million.

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James Franco Teams with Scott Haze to Create Rattlestick West Theatre

While working on a play at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in 2014, Scott Haze and Broadway veteran James Franco decided to join forces with David Van Asselt, Artistic Director of Rattlestick, to create Rattlestick West. Rattlestick, known for its work with emerging American artists, has produced over 90 world premieres in its 20 year history. Haze, founder of The Sherry Theater in Los Angeles, brought in his producing partner Lukas Behnken and the Sherry team with over 10 years of doing theater in LA to form this new bi-coastal collective.

The mission: seek out unique new voices, work with new and emerging playwrights, establish a home where playwrights have the ability to work with actors to explore and hone their art. More than that, we are looking to create an environment where all kinds of discovery becomes possible, through stage, film and innovative media, where the borders of art collide, and inspiration can thrive.

In this coming season Rattlestick West will produce five plays at the Sherry Theater, including works by Scott Caan, Daniel Talbott, and a chamber musical with songs co-written by Suzanne Vega and Duncan Sheik to a script of Ms. Vega’s based on Carson McCullers’ life.

Rattlestick is also co-producing with the Boston Court Theatre, Seven Spots on The Sun by Martín Zimmerman, at the Boston Court in Pasadena.

Rattlestick West offically launches with the 2015 Fall Festival later this October.

For additional information, visit: http://rattlestickwest.org/

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Jon Snow (a.k.a. James Franco) Plans a Game of Thrones Wedding, Hilarity Ensues

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Jon Snow is alive and well—and retired from the Night’s Watch to pursue a verrrrry different career path—in the next episode of the webseries Making a Scene With James Franco. Wanna know what the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch is up to now? Wedding planning.
James Franco stars as the possibly dead warrior in the latest episode of his webseries, which combines current TV favorites with totally unexpected genres. Game of Thrones gets the mockumentary-style sitcom treatment in “Modern Throne,” and E! News has an exclusive sneak peek at the mashup.
“I retired from the Night’s Watch. I forsook my vows and have decided to fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a wedding planner,” dishes Franco as Snow. “I plan the most spectacular weddings in the realm.”

This wedding really does have everything! Dragons, a White Walker, some unruly Dothraki—it’s a dangerous affair, made even more dangerous by the fact that it’s between Tyrion and Joffrey Lannister and officially the first gay wedding in Westeros.
“I just want it to go well, alright? I don’t want any fighting, no raping,” he warns his employees. “I just want to marry these two guys, okay? I don’t want anybody’s penis to be cut off and eaten, okay? Not on my watch!”
But Snow knows he’s in deep. “I knew that I was in for trouble,” he laments.

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Seth Rogen: James Franco Legit Got Bar Mitzvahed

Everyone and their Jewish mothers knew Seth Rogen was throwing James Franco a bar mitzvah later this month for his Hilarity for Charity benefit to raise money for Alzheimer’s (You can donate here.). While the circumcision was still up for grabs, we discovered that Franco’s coming-of-age ceremony already happened. “He did his actual bar mitzvah last night,” Rogen told Vulture Saturday night at the New York Film Festival premiere of Steve Jobs, in which he plays Steve Wozniak. “I might have a picture that my friend sent me.” Rogen then pulled out his iPhone to show us the photo.

Everything looked legit: Franco was wearing a tallis prayer shawl and kippah while reading from a Torah scroll. “The Rabbi wouldn’t do it on the actual event, so he did it last night at our friend’s house and we filmed it and we’ll show it at our fund-raiser,” Rogen said. “He really got bar mitzvahed!”

And of course, Franco’s Torah reading was in Hebrew. “What else is James Franco going to do?” Rogen said. Awkward dance circles are also in the works. “I’m trying to organize a hora, specifically with some Jewish, uh, pop singers,” Rogen said, giggling. “If there’s any singer who’s Jewish, we’re getting them in there. Lisa Loeb. I think Haim is Jewish, I’m not sure. But yeah, we’ll find them.”

Mazel tov, James! We’re farklempt from kvelling so hard.

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James Franco warns Lenny Kravitz about rocking out in Guitar Hero Live commercial

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Lenny Kravitz knows how to rock out, but occasionally, as this summer revealed, some other things may come out as well. Luckily, the rock star has James Franco to help him keep things under control.

Guitar Hero Live reintroduces the series after a five-year hiatus (as does its competitor Rock Band), with a new take on the rhythm gaming genre. Gone are the familiar five colorful buttons of plasitc guitars past. Instead, players tap on two rows of three buttons for single notes and chord-like shapes on a new guitar peripheral. The series has also shed the band focus it adopted in later entries to just be about guitar, with a campaign mode featuring a live band and audience that reacts to your playing, and a streaming music service that eschews the traditional downloadable song model.

Guitar Hero Live will be available for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Wii U on Oct. 20, with a planned mobile release as well

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