Poetry News

James Franco's Hart Crane Biopic to Open at Los Angeles Film Festival

By Harriet Staff


The Jewish Journal reports (though we heard rumor) that James Franco's film about poet Hart Crane, The Broken Tower, is due to premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival, which runs from June 16 to June 26. Franco has been invested in the picture in more ways than one, as he is wont, having been inspired by Crane as a character while reading Paul Mariani’s Crane biography, The Broken Tower, early on and then deciding while in film school at NYU to direct and star in a film about the poet's life. For Bloomsday, we've got what he told our own Travis Nichols:

Crane’s life was the life of the quintessential struggling artist. I mean, James Joyce, he’s a great writer, but it would be hard to make his life dramatic. You could, but it’s just not readily dramatic. I guess you could say, “Oh, well, he went to Paris and his daughter was kind of crazy and he hung out with Sylvia Beach, then the war came. . . .”

The Jewish Journal has a lengthy Q&A with the actor/filmmaker/writer about the film, calling it "His Film on Tortured Gay Poet Hart Crane," and noting that "The graphic gay sex scenes will no doubt be fodder for those who love to speculate as to Franco’s sexuality, given that he has also played the lover of congressman Harvey Milk in 'Milk' and the Jewish beat poet Allen Ginsberg in 'Howl.' He’ll release a vinyl album in July with his frequent collaborator, the drag queen Kalup Lindsay, and he once famously teased a reporter, 'Maybe I’m just gay.'"

They go on to discuss Crane's sexuality, life in the 1920s, his writing, and Franco's interest in the poet:

JF: ...In addition, it was so difficult for him to write—I mean it just took years and years and YEARS—and his friends had turned on him with [negative reviews]. So there he was going back to a New York that had just fallen into the Depression; he felt like he couldn’t write anymore—he had been trying to write some epic about the history of Mexico; he had just written a poem that nobody cared about; he had no money and no inheritance; he was going to have to find a job in advertising again, which to an extremely sensitive person like him was just hell. And maybe he wouldn’t even get that kind of job because it was the Depression. So he was just going back to a place where he really had nothing to look forward to but misery.

NPM: Are there ways in which you identify with Crane, as an artist and a person?

JF: I suppose there are things that I both admire and, in some ways, think he maybe went too far with. He was an autodidact; he didn’t go to college, but he was always searching, and his letters are famous for engaging in these very pure and intense dialogues about his work. But he went too far in that he was very stubborn. He knew his work was difficult, and that he was going to turn off most readers. But he felt that if he had six good readers that was enough for him. I am in a business where that’s harder to do, because movies cost more money, so you need more than six viewers to make the money back, or nobody is going to invest in your movies anymore. So I guess I admire his attitude, but when I’m dealing with something like a film, I try –- depending on the subject –- to walk a middle ground. The film, “The Broken Tower” is not going to be a blockbuster, but I’ve made it for not a ton of money – I made it for a very responsible amount of money, because I know what it is. But I’ve also tried to be true my subject and not water down or try and make it more entertaining just for entertaining’s sake.

We shall see!

Originally Published: June 16th, 2011