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James Franco talks poetry and film

February 24, 2011 |  8:27 am

Jamesfranco_oscarlunch James Franco has a busy Sunday planned: He's co-hosting the Oscars with Anne Hathaway and is nominated for best actor for his performance in "127 Hours." When it's all over Franco, who is also a writer, producer, director, soap opera actor and English grad student (what did I miss?), might just be thinking about poetry.

The Poetry Foundation has posted a Q&A with Franco about his poetic interests and how they've crossed over into film. He found Anthony Hecht, Frank Bidart and Spencer Reece to be cinematic, which led to his idea of making the biopic of poet Hart Crane.

He compares how the movie "Howl" -- which he starred in, as Allen Ginsberg -- is different from the upcoming biopic about poet Hart Crane, "The Broken Tower," which Franco starred in, wrote and directed.

You actually get the text of the poems in The Broken Tower, at least four, maybe five of them, in different forms. It’s almost like the anti-Howl, meaning the movie Howl. I love that movie, but Jeffrey (Friedman) and Rob (Epstein) had a different approach than I used. They put the poem at the center. The movie is really about the poem, but they did everything they could to illuminate the poem, to make it more clear, at least on one level, mostly kind of a biographical level, or an autobiographical level. Each section helped the viewer approach the poem, so you get the first reading, you get Ginsberg talking about the poem, what inspired the poem, what certain sections meant to him, you get his contemporaries, some of his contemporaries’ responses to the poem in the courtroom, you get a visual interpretation with the animation....

Crane wanted his poetry to be difficult. He wanted it to be read in a different way than people normally read. So when I started developing the movie, I thought, yes, it will be a biopic of sorts, but I wanted to have the texture of his poetry. He wrote this essay “General Aims and Theories” about his work because he knew it was difficult, and he talked about how the meaning of the poems could be found in a way that the metaphors played off each other, like the tenor of the metaphors were all resting on this upper level, relating to each other. And that was the meaning of the poems, rather than the meaning you might get on the surface level.

So I thought, okay, if there is some equivalent in cinematic language that I could achieve, that would be interesting because you’ll get some incidences from his life delivered through something that feels more like his poetry.

"The Broken Tower" is scheduled to come out later this year.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: James Franco at the 83rd Academy Awards nominations luncheon. Credit: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images