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James Franco on his adaptation of 'As I Lay Dying': 'I'm not out to bore anyone'

William Faulkner is notoriously hard to read, the bane of many a high school sophomore’s existence. But James Franco wasn’t one of them. “I’ve been a huge fan of Faulkner’s works since I was in high school and my dad turned me on to his books,” Franco tells EW. And many years later, he’s now turned As I Lay Dying, Faulker’s 1930 tale of a woman who dies and her body is taken to the city to be buried, into a film that uses a split-screen technique to tell the narrative from various characters’ points of view. Franco spoke with EW about his experience making the film, his choices in casting — including Eastbound & Down star Danny McBride, and how making comedies with Seth Rogen helped inform his filmmaking , even in creating a serious drama.

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James Franco in 'As I Lay Dying' -- EXCLUSIVE POSTER

AS-I-LAY-DYING

As I Lay Dying has never been adapted for the screen before. William Faulkner’s 1930 classic is an especially complicated tale, alternating between dozens of points of view, while telling the story of a family’s journey to bury the matriarch. It was a bold decision for James Franco to take on the task.

Despite his forays into experimental art, academia, and short stories, Franco is still best known for his acting work. For As I Lay Dying, Franco not only wrote the screenplay, he also directed the film and stars as Darl Bundren. Though he’s often scrutinized for taking on too many ambitious projects, Franco has been appropriately thoughtful and introspective about the monumental task of adapting a literary classic. In an interview in January 2011, long before filming began, Franco told EW:

“You want to capture the tone, but you can’t work in exactly the same way … I don’t believe it’ll feel the same if you divide it as rigidly as the book, like titles that say ‘Cash’ and then you’re with Cash. You can slip into the characters’ heads and give them their inner voice for a while, but it has to be more fluid because movies just work differently than books. Movies, in some ways because they deal in images, are more concrete. I want to be loyal to the book — my approach is to always be loyal in a lot a ways — but in order to be loyal I will have to change some things for the movie.”

Danny McBride (Tropic Thunder), Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou?) and Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus) also star. Check out the As I Lay Dying trailer after the jump.
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James Franco's 'As I Lay Dying' trailer: Depression-era Mississippi and Tim Blake Nelson

When James Franco, the sometimes over committed but admirably ambitious multihyphenate, claimed that he was going to direct an adaptation of As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner’s classic novel about a family’s journey to honor the request of their dying mother, we were cautiously optimistic.

The multi-character, stream-of-consciousness novel seemed out of reach for any director. But Franco has given it a go, and assembled an enviable cast including Danny McBride (Tropic Thunder), Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou?) and Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus). Though it’s too early to judge the outcome, we finally got a glimpse at his vision in the first trailer, which lingers on the bucolic Mississippi landscape before escalating the tension with the helpful narration of a prescient innocent. It’s mercifully unsentimental and does not take pains to put the viewer at ease. Check it out for yourself below.

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First Look: James Franco in William Faulkner's 'As I Lay Dying' -- EXCLUSIVE PHOTO

James Franco and True Blood‘s Jim Parrack star in As I Lay Dying, the first-ever screen adaptation of William Faulkner’s 1930 literary classic that will debut at Cannes next month. True to his renaissance reputation, Franco doesn’t just star — as the book’s initial narrator Darl Bundren — he adapted the novel and directed it, as well. Franco had been haunted by the story, about a Mississippi family whose journey to honor their deceased mother’s dying wishes for burial is interrupted by all sorts of calamity, ever since he read it as a teenager. “As I Lay Dying was a book that my father gave me and I can remember spending a weekend reading late into Friday night and Saturday night, when all of my friends were out partying,” Franco said. “It was a difficult book back then. I just tried to understand every line of it. It stayed with me.” READ FULL STORY

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