James Franco has cast the lead in his adaptation of Andre Dubus III’s singularly intense novel “The Garden of Last Days,” and he had to go all the way to Westeros to find her: Emilia Clarke, who plays the dragon-loving Daenerys Targaryen on the smash HBO fantasy series “Game of Thrones,” according to the Hollywood Reporter. She will play a Florida stripper who brings her 3-year-old daughter to work with her on the fateful night that she ends up dancing for several of the terrorists who would be involved in 9/11.
It’s unclear whether or not Franco is also writing the adaptation of the novel, but given his extensively hands-on approach, it’s probably safe to assume he won’t just write and direct but he’ll also co-star, cater and do costume design. Millennium/Nu Image is financing the movie, with Gerard Butler, Alan Siegel, Danielle Robinson, Hanna Weg, Vince Jolivette and Miles Levy producing. We had a fairly lengthy chat with Tim Blake Nelson last year and he expressed his love and admiration for Franco, so we would be very surprised if he didn’t also end up joining the cast in some capacity.
While we applaud Franco’s boundless enthusiasm, we wonder if his throw-anything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach (which often comes across as somewhat sloppy and haphazard) is really what a (“low budget,” according to the Hollywood Reporter report) adaptation of this novel needs. The novel, written by the author of “House of Sand and Fog,” was choked with hazy atmosphere and a kind of frayed-nerve energy more befitting someone with a mastery of suspense, like Brian De Palma, and not James Franco, who is slowly turning his entire life into a weird performance art project that only he understands.
It’s also strange that the Hollywood Reporter write-up doesn’t mention 9/11. It’s part of what made the book so powerful – taking place in this weird historical microcosm – so if that aspect is not included in the film, it would be a real shame. That said, we can’t imagine Franco shying away from “difficult” subject matter, so the connection to 9/11 is probably still there.
Franco has had something of a banner year, starring in one of the biggest box office hits of 2013 (“Oz the Great and Powerful”), along with one of the strangest and most fun (“Spring Breakers”). He can be seen this week in “The Iceman” and, before the year is up, can be spotted in biopic “Lovelace” and studio comedy “This Is The End.” He also wrote and directed a movie called “Child Of God” and an adaptation of William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying.” No big deal. Clarke, for her part, just completed a British crime movie called “Dom Hemingway” with Jude Law. So there.
“The Garden of Last Days” starts production in July.