You wouldn’t expect to hear “William Faulkner” and “Danny McBride” uttered in the same sentence, let alone to see the latter starring alongside Beth Grant, Tim Blake Nelson, Logan Marshall-Green, and James Franco in an adaptation of Faulkner’s modernist classic, As I Lay Dying. And yet there he is, doffing his hat with the best of them, breathing life into a film that was also written and directed by Franco—the multitasking sort-of-scholar who probably figured it only made sense for him to lead the charge here. After all, he’s played Allen Ginsberg and Hart Crane in the last three years alone, so he must know at least a few things about books and stuff by now.
The source text is narrated from the points of view of the Bundren clan as they travel to Jefferson, Mississippi to bury their mother. It’s unclear how Franco will tackle the work’s nonlinear narrative and fractured perspective, aspects that have likely led more cowardly men to declare it unfilmable. (As of now, it looks like he just plans to sidestep it by having the characters whisper some famous passages.) But true artists are not dissuaded by obstacles like conceptual difficulty and the fear of being perceived as a megalomaniac. The film is set to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, after which it will presumably enjoy a limited release stateside. In the meantime, we should thank our lucky stars that the movie isn’t just several hours of a tweed-clad James Franco sitting on a stool and reading the book aloud—because that was totally a possibility.