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Watch: James Franco Releases the 25-Minute Test Reel He Made for ‘Blood Meridian’

Watch: James Franco Releases the 25-Minute Test Reel He Made for 'Blood Meridian'

Based on what he calls his favorite novel, James Franco shot a 25-minute test reel for an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s (“The Road,” “No Country for Old Men”) “Blood Meridian” a couple of years ago, releasing it now on Vice to correspond with the release of “Child of God,” another McCarthy adaptation by Franco. He is coming off of a successful run of “Palo Alto,” for which he stars and wrote the source material. Franco made this “Blood Meridian” piece just as any other student filmmaker, which he was at the time, might have. It employs only natural light, as in the flicker of a campfire in early scenes, and he even had to cast his brother (Dave Franco, “Now You See Me”). He accompanied the video release with a statement. The full video is below.

READ MORE: Watch James Franco Load Rifles in Clip from ‘Child of God’

In honor of “Child of God’s” release on August 1st, I’m posting a 25-minute test I did for the film version of Blood Meridian. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy is my favorite novel. It marks the midpoint of his career, between the Southern Gothic stories of his Tennessee days (he grew up in Tennessee and went to the high school with painter Josh Smith) and his later border-based stories (The Border Trilogy, No Country for Old Men, The Road) after he moved to Texas and then to New Mexico.

In some ways Blood seems un-filmable. It is almost Biblical in its lapidary. His terse prose utilizes vocabulary only found in the crannies of annals of the Old West and the specialized spheres of working men. He captures the slang of forgotten peoples so deftly, it’s as if they were his barroom friends.

I made my test for Blood Meridian three or four years ago. It stars Scott Glen, Luke Perry, Mark Pellegrino (Lost), and my brother, Dave. We shot it in three days in some place near Yosemite that is the Mule Capital of the world. If you know the book, you’ll recognize that this is the sequence where Tobin recounts how the Glanton gang met the Judge, a Satan-like character and Glanton’s right-hand man. The gang was out of gunpowder and about to be caught by Apache warriors, whereupon they would be killed for lack of working weaponry. Enjoy.

“Child of God” opens in select theaters August 1 and hits VOD October 28.

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Jack Oudejans

John Goldman is perfect fit for
judge Holden

Judge Holden

Please, please don’t let James Franco butcher this masterpiece. If someone like Ridley Scott was afraid to make this movie, think what an abomination James Franco will make of it. I would have loved to have seen what a young Orson Welles would have done with this movie, David Lynch. I love to see what Ang Lee would do. But James Franco???? Give me a freakin’ break. Nothing this guy has or will ever do will amount to more than an incoherent, steaming pile of crap.

John Aragon

Thank you, Mr. Franco. Your film was fun. No one–except perhaps The Judge–will ever be able to capture Blood Meridian on film. But I am grateful for your entertaining and admirable attempt.


I agree with all of the above.

Is language so slippery?

I would hardly characterize the prose in Blood Meridian as "terse."


Don't do it Franco. This is just terrible. I don't even know where to begin.


John Malcovic, with some digital enhancement, might be the only one to play the Judge. This dude looks like the creepy guy at a frat party.


this was pretty bad


the nose scratching school of acting. Blood meridian should feel like Apocalypse Now not a film school project.


GTFO Franco. Verite-style garbage. That choice doesn't make one bit of sense. Just leave the book alone, it's perfect.


Not happening for me. Few comments below.. Picturing apocalypse now era Brando as the judge is on point. This actor too similarly proportioned to the others.. Menacing, yes, but more elfin aryan than behemoth. Credit for attempt but too soon to release..

Shane Lesher

I agree with Chris. This is a very low budget version but he captures how the book is paced very well. He keeps the lines true and didn't seem to expand to the point of stupidity. For a low budget adventure, I think he did a pretty good job with this. He seems good at transitioning literature to film.

Chris Tangemann

Franco can make this movie. It would just be best if its deeper into his directing career after he's gained more experience with it. He's got a literary mind & I think the right vision. Most of the flaws people are complaining about wouldn't be an issue in a big budget feature film. The most important asset Franco brings is a passion & appreciation for Mcarthy's work.

Nathan Lee Bush

Oof.. Hollywood, please don't let James Franco butcher Blood Meridian. Give it to Paul Thomas Anderson or the Cohen Brothers (who get McCarthy's vibe and pacing based on No Country).. or me! I've visualized it so much. I've fantasized of doing justice to certain scenes, like the circus family losing their tent in the desert.. so poetically described. It's such a visual novel, and the tone is so controlled, not this sloppy handheld look. It's also very much about the surreality and beauty of this inhospitable, inhuman place, and this pretty much ignores the locale. This just happens to be in the desert.


Never happen obviously, but am I the only one picturing a big, bald, circa Apocalypse Now, Brando as The Judge? That's what I pictured while reading it anyway.


JAMES FRANCO, You are a great actor, but a terrible director.


I really hope he doesn't attempt to turn the book into a movie. The book is too good. If there must be a movie based on the book, it needs be done by somebody who knows what hell they are doing.

Le Corroyeur

Bonté du Christ, Franco, I can make any piece of crap you want, I don't give a shit, but please, leave C. McCarthy alone.


somebody stop James Franco! for the love of god. Franco, you're drunk. go home. forever.


Jesus, this is terrible on so many levels. The tone? The shots? He can't even get pronunciation of simple words like "llano" right. This is an utter abortion of an attempt to film even one scene.


I agree, the judge is twice as big as the guy playing him. It's the unfilmable book. If they did find some way to pull it off it would have to be a trilogy or something.


You'll never find an actor to fit the physical profile of the judge. It just won't happen. Better to have an empty space where he should be, maybe even a voice that only the actors on screen respond to. Otherwise you're doomed. Luke Perry as Glanton? A complete lack of gravity already.

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