James Franco is a busy man. When he’s not performing in front of the camera, you’ll often find the eldest Franco behind the lens, writing, producing and crafting a variety of features ranging from upcoming comedy The Masterpiece to Zeroville, the star-studded drama set against the Hollywood Golden Age.
Now, he’s headed to Depression-era California for In Dubious Battle – and he’s taking Nat Wolff, Robert Duvall, Vincent D’Onofrio and Selena Gomez along with him for the ride.
Adapted from the little-known third entry into John Steinbeck’s unofficial Dustbowl trilogy — Of Mice And Men and The Grapes Of Wrath round out the trio – Franco’s feature is set to place a laser focus on the struggles of rural workers trying to make ends meet in the face of harrowing conditions.
At the forefront of that struggle is Wolff’s Jim Nolan, a young recruit who joins Franco’s activist Mac McLeod in rising up against a power-mongering tycoon who is effectively bleeding Californian farmers dry. Robert Duvall is attached to the part, with Bryan Cranston, Ed Harris, Sam Shepard, Josh Hutcherson, Ashley Greene, John Savage and writer-director Zach Braff completing the ensemble.
In Dubious Battle is booked in for a worldwide bow at Venice International Film Festival next weekend, before making the jump to Toronto International Film Festival in mid-September. James Franco’s latest is without a theatrical release in the States, but we fully expect that to change following its back-to-back festival run.
Set in the orchards of California Valley in the dirty ’30s, Steinbeck’s tale follows two young idealists from “The Party” who are appalled by the orchards’ terrible working conditions and set out to organize the fruit pickers. Having arrived from out of town, Mac McLeod (Franco) and Jim Nolan (Nat Wolff) are met with skepticism and some outright hostility when they first suggest unionizing. Most of the pickers simply want to work and get paid, even if they are being mercilessly exploited. Mac and Jim realize that their progress depends on convincing local elder Al Anderson (Vincent D’Onofrio). He’s a hard nut, but could be won over after Mac helps his daughter-in-law, Lisa (Selena Gomez), when she goes into labour. Surrounding the two activists is a cast of eclectic characters with varying loyalties, among them the ruthless orchard owner (Robert Duvall), who is determined to crack down on any strike action.