Hirsute, Howl, and James Franco
Sep 15, 2008
What happens when the imaginary Allen Ginsberg walks the same
university campus where the real Allen Ginsberg once walked?
Last week Hollywood Reporter listed the cast for the upcoming
Ginsberg biopic, Howl. Hunky and smart James Franco will play the
young poet as he composes the epic poem that landed him in a famous
courtroom battle over obscenity.
As Leon Neyfakh reported, Franco recently enrolled in writing school,
honing his writing skills at Columbia University's MFA program. While
Franco's representative wouldn't comment on this new adventure,
GalleyCat interviewed an anonymous creative writing applicant who sat
in on a writing workshop with Franco earlier this year.
"It's April or March, I don't remember exactly, I was visiting
Brooklyn College's MFA program, when in walks Spiderman's
arch-nemesis, Harry Osborn. He was wearing a black leather jacket
over a hoodies, jeans, Vans, and his hair was weirdly orange,"
our spy recalled...
"We go around the table introducing ourselves ("Hi, I'm James. I'm
from Los Angeles"), and then, right before we're about to head over
to the workshop, it comes out that the future Allen Ginsberg hadn't
read any of the stories for the workshop. So he sits at a desk in the
other room and reads.
"Later, we mosey on down to the workshop. No one in the room of 20 or
so students seems to recognize or acknowledge him, which is making me
kinda angry and happy at the same time. Throughout the three or so
hours, Franco sits quietly and unobtrusively at one end of the table,
listening, not taking any notes, just listening.
"The only really life that came out of him was in response to the
workshop leader's detonation of the word 'Hirsute' at the end of a
funny (but not really THAT funny) comment about a young woman's legs.
Franco laughed breathily, ostentatiously, as if to say, 'Hirsute. I
know that word. That's funny.'"
Source: Parker Cut Hair to Pursue Role in "Howl"
Gus Van Sant to executive produce film biopic on beatnik Allen Ginsberg.
September 20th, 2008
Superstar Sarah Jessica Parker shockingly lost her "Sex and the City"
locks last week -- cutting her famous tresses back to a dramatic and
demure Audrey Hepburn length – in order to pursue a small but coveted
role in Gus Van Sant's upcoming film "Howl," according to close
friends of the actress.
To the shock of many star-gazers, Parker debuted her new look at the
launch party this week for the "Sex and the City" film DVD. That film
has raked in over $500 million in ticket sales worldwide, setting a
record for its genre.
"Sarah is looking to do some more serious roles, as evidenced by her
involvement in the film 'Spinning Into Butter,'" says one close
friend. "Her longer hairstyle had become both a psychic burden to
her, as well as a bit of a career burden. The hair screamed 'Sex and
the City,' while the real Sarah inside was crying out for something
With the huge financial success of "Sex and the City" the film
worldwide, superstar Parker is now in an extremely strong position to
call the tunes when it comes to her own career, say sources, and is
in the process of deciding exactly how to cash in her existing chips
with New Line Cinema, "Sex and the City's" producer.
"And those chips are huge ones," says one source.
In honor of the 50th anniversary of beatnik Allen Ginsberg's classic
poem "Howl," the Ginsberg Trust approached Academy Award-winning
documentary filmmaker Rob Epstein ("The Times of Harvey Milk"), who
will co-write and direct the film with Jeffrey Friedman.
"Fifty years later, Ginsberg's vision is as relevant as the year he
wrote it," Friedman told the Hollywood Reporter. "It resonates with
issues of free speech, government censorship, militaristic empire
building, fear-mongering, sexual conformity and the co-opting of religion."
The docudrama features the many players in the 1957 trial:
prosecuting attorney Ralph McIntosh (David Strathairn), Judge Clayton
Horn (Alan Alda), prosecution witness Professor David Kirk (Jeff
Daniels), radio personality and prosecution witness Gail Potter
(Mary-Louise Parker) and literary critic and defense witness Luther
Nichols (Paul Rudd).
In the grand tradition of attractive Hollywood stars portraying
iconic literary figures -- think Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf,
Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen, Joseph Fiennes as William Shakespeare,
etc. -- James Franco has been cast as the groundbreaking beatnik poet.
The role is a major coup for "SpiderMan" star Franco, who has been
anointed "the next big thing" for a while but is capitalizing on that
potential in a big way this year with a rave comedic performance as
the stoner with a heart of gold in "Pineapple Express." He will next
be seen in the Nicholas Sparks adaptation "Nights in Rodanthe," and
will appear as Sean Penn's partner in the biopic of gay politician
Harvey Milk in Gus Van Sant's "Milk." Van Sant, incidentally, will
serve as a executive producer on Howl.
"Howl," published in 1956, was Ginsberg's lengthy poem that served as
a sort of diatribe against conservative America. Its then-taboo
subject matter, including a blatant frankness about homosexuality and
drug usage, led to an obscenity trail against the book's publisher.
Ginsberg was briefly portrayed by a bearded David Cross in last
year's Bob Dylan-inspired biopic hybrid "I'm Not There." And as
strange as it may sound, Franco and Cross both bear more than a
passing resemblance to their real-life counterpart (at different
stages in his life, of course).
Eric Drooker, a graphic novelist who created "Illuminated Poems," an
illustrated book of Ginsberg's work, is on board to create an
animated version of "Howl" for the film. A theatrical release date
has not been announced.
Parker's "Spinning Into Butter," directed by Mark Brokaw, debuted at
Cannes in 2007 but has not found a theatrical distributor. Interest
has been expressed by OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network to be launched
in 2009 to replace the Discovery Health Channel, in acquiring rights
to its world premiere. The film stars Sarah Jessica Parker as Sarah
Daniels, Miranda Richardson as Catherine Kenney, Beau Bridges as
Burton Strauss and Mykelti Williamson as Aaron Carmicheal.
The film was taken from a highly succcessful play of the same name
that takes place at the fictional Belmont College, a mostly-white
liberal arts school in Vermont. Simon Brick, one of the few
African-American students, begins receiving hateful, racist notes.
The all-white administration, including a dean named Sarah Daniels,
scrambles to contain the problem and reassure parents that everything
is under control. But Daniels, in a controversial scene, reveals her
not-so-latent racism, calling blacks lazy, stupid, and scary.
The play's treatment of racism has sparked some controversy. Several
productions include a forum at the end for audience members to
discuss the issues raised. The well known novelist Ishmael Reed
criticized the play, calling it racist and clumsy. But other critics
defend the play, arguing that it exposes rather than perpetrates racism.
The play's treatment of political and social issues in an academic
context have prompted comparisons to David Mamet's play Oleanna (1992).
The play's title comes from the story of Sambo. In this famous and
controversial tale, Sambo's clothes are stolen by tigers, who then
begin to argue about who among them is dressed the finest. They chase
each other around a tree until they spin themselves into butter,
which Sambo eats with pancakes. In "Spinning into Butter," one of the
characters uses this story to explain the behavior of Simon.
OWN's interest in airing "Spinning Into Butter" arose with the news
last week that Maria Grasso was expected to exit Lifetime to join
rival cable upstart OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network.
Details about Grasso's post at OWN are still sketchy, but she would
assume a top development role at OWN under president Robin Schwartz.
Grasso is the second key executive hire for Schwartz after the
appointment of Nina Wass as senior vp creative affairs last month. As
of Thursday, Grasso was still working at Lifetime, visiting the set
of the network's pilot "Drop Dead Diva" in Atlanta. Grasso's pending
departure would follow the exit of Lifetime entertainment president
Susanne Daniels in June.
Grasso had worked under Daniels at the WB Network, where Daniels was
president of entertainment and Grasso was senior vp drama
development. Daniels brought her to Lifetime shortly after she took
the reins of the network in September 2005. At Lifetime, Grasso
oversaw the development of the network's slate of scripted series,
including breakthrough hit "Army Wives."
Before that, she spent five years at WB, where she was instrumental
in developing such series as "Everwood," "One Tree Hill" and "Jack &
Bobby." Grasso also has served as senior vp comedy development at
Warner Bros. TV, executive vp development at Will Vinton Studios and
senior vp comedy development at Universal TV.