While he’s no Terrence Malick, Vietnamese-French director Tran Anh Hung isn’t exactly rushing movies out. Since his critically acclaimed debut “The Scent Of Green Papaya” in 1993, only five films have arrived from the helmer, one of which, neo-noir “I Come With The Rain” starring Josh Hartnett, has never really seen the light of day. During that time in the limelight, though, Tran had one particular project fall apart at the seams: his adaptation of Kent Anderson‘s post-war drama “Night Dogs,” which he recently discussed with Twitch.
“It was a great book called ‘Night Dogs’ by Ken Anderson, about a Vietnam vet, set in 1975, Portland, Oregon. After I read the book, one of those eureka moments happened. I got up one morning and my head was filled with Jimi Hendrix songs. (Claps his hands) Bang! I really wanted to use about 11 Jimi Hendrix songs for that adaptation. It would’ve been great. It had Adrien Brody, Holly Hunter, Elias Koteas and Harvey Keitel attached…”
Music has played an important role in Hung’s films, including the forthcoming “Norwegian Wood,” featuring a score by Jonny Greenwood and centering around the titular Beatles’ song. But a Hendrix-powered soundtrack backing a Tran drama? Damn. That said, who knows if he got clearance from the notoriously tough (and expensive) Hendrix estate. Seems like a good idea that was kiboshed with the movie. Anyway, we can always dream of what couuld have been — here’s the fascinating Amazon synopsis of Anderson’s novel:
Hansen, a Vietnam vet who became a cop in Portland, Oregon, is barely in control of his own violent tendencies. The precinct he covers in the time frame of the book–the 70s–is becoming far more dangerous due to drugs and the increasing availability of guns within this war zone. Hansen is an effective cop, but more and more he is drawn into situations where his own need for violent action will get him into trouble. Now a colleague in the department is secretly checking on Hansen’s war record, hoping to discredit him. There is plenty of cop action in this beautifully written novel, but above all it is a portrait of a man who will never put Vietnam behind him–the war is inside him.
So, just why did things fall apart? “Well, Adrien Brody won the Oscar and didn’t want to do it anymore,” Tran added. “Actually it was more complicated than that. Canal+, which initially greenlit the project, went through a management change. And the new guy said, ‘If there is any change in this project, we are axing it.’ Then Adrien dropped out.”
Things are looking up for Tran now, however, with another film evidently in the works. “It’s a complete French movie. It’s another adaptation from a book. Honestly, this project will change the way I make movies. But I can’t divulge much about it because we are still in negotiations. After that, my producer will need to raise money and all that.”
But until then, you can catch “Norwegian Wood” as it opens in limited release this Friday, January 6th.