I have a love/hate relationship with James Franco. Mostly I love him, but then again I really hate him. No one can accuse him of not trying, although sometimes he tries things that are quite obviously above his head. Remember when he was going to adapt Blood Meridian, perhaps Cormac McCarthy’s least-adaptable novel? Yeah, that never happened, did it? Now Franco wants to try again, with a different difficult novel. He’s planning to direct and star in a film adaptation of James Ellroy’s American Tabloid.
The novel involves three men from differing professions who become involved with, among others, the mob, Howard Hughes, the FBI, CIA, J. Edgar Hoover and President Kennedy’s assassination. The first in Ellroy’s Underworld USA trilogy, the novel is a mish-mosh of weird conspiracy theory and proper history, set in a violent version of the mid-twentieth century. It would make a great film – even the beginning of a series – if handled correctly.
It’s early days yet, according to Franco, but he’s making plans. No word yet on who Franco would play in American Tabloid – the three main characters are a musclehead, an FBI man and an accountant, so I’ll put my money on Kemper Boyd, the FBI guy.
My big question right now is can Franco handle directing duties on a film like American Tabloid? He’s certainly been working hard, currently promoting two films (kink and Interior. Leather Bar) at Sundance. With Oz: The Great And Powerful coming out shortly, he’s been trading in the big budget films as well as the small indie productions. He’s got Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God in post-production, and an adaptation of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying on track. That’s an awful lot to add another tough adaptation on top.
For a guy who seems to take on so much at once, often without it going anywhere, I’m skeptical that American Tabloid will ever see the light of day. Franco might consider himself an artist – he might even be one – but no artist can take on quite so much at once and expect to produce anything worthwhile.
We shall see what comes of it, of course. I’d love to see a good adaptation of Ellroy’s work. Maybe James Franco is just the man to do it.
What do you think? Is our boy taking on too much to do justice to American Tabloid, or does it sound just right?