Obscenity! The '50s! Legal drama! Book-length poems! OK, that last one is part of what distinguishes the upcoming Howl, in which James Franco will star as legendary beatnik writer Allen Ginsberg. The film revolves around the court trial that took place after Howl was published in 1956 -- and promptly banned for obscenity. Mary-Louise Parker, Paul Rudd, Jeff Daniels, David Straithairn, and Alan Alda have just been added to the cast, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
All will play fictional versions of real-life characters. On the side of the prosecution (boo! hiss!), indie darling / TV star Parker will play radio personality Gail Potter, the reliably venal Daniels will embody Professor David Kirk, and the firm and steady Staithairn will be prosecuting attorney Ralph McIntosh. In behalf of the defense (yay! cheer!), Paul Rudd will play literary critic (?!) Luther Nichols. Calm and fair as always, I'm sure, Alda will play Judge Clayton Horn.
Documentarians Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman will make their narrative debut and the film is all theirs: they are writing, producing, and directing. Epstein made the terrific doc The Times of Harvey Milk and the pair made Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt. Gus van Sant is serving as executive producer, and Coen crony Carter Burwell is set to provide an original score. I hope that Epstein and Friedman can pull off the transition to narrative film and give us an incendiary picture; the elements are all in place, and the time is right.