By Shipra Gupta and Eric Kohn | Indiewire May 16, 2014 at 6:30AM
This week, "Spring Breakers" star James Franco expressed displeasure over news that MUSE Prods. is developing a sequel to last summer's sleeper hit, currently titled "Spring Breakers: The Second Coming," without having sought out Korine's consent.
In a post on via his Instagram feed, Franco wrote:
STATEMENT ABOUT SPRING BREAKERS 2: This is not being done with Harmony Korine or my consent. The original was wholly Harmony's creation and these producers are capitalizing on that innovative film to make money on a weak sequel. I want everyone to know that whoever is involved in the sequel is jumping on board a poison ship. It will be a terrible film, with a horrible reason d'être: to make money off someone else's creativity. Can you imagine someone making the sequel to "Taxi Driver" without Scorcese and DeNiro's consents? Insanity! I'm speaking up for Harmony and his original vision and for any creative person who cares about preserving artistic integrity.
Franco's Instagram statement has received over 82,000 likes since it was posted. However, this wasn't the first time he referenced possible misdealings behind the scenes.
On May 9, three days after international sales company Wild Bunch announced its intention to raise money for the project during the Cannes Film Festival, along with the attachment of director Jonas Akerlund and Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh ("Trainspotting") to write the screenplay, Franco published a peculiar video of himself looking like a doped-out version of his "Spring Breakers" character, Alien. The caption reads as follows:
ALIEN IN REHAB! And BTW F*** that SBers 2 BS, they're doing it without HARMONY's CONSENT. Sounds LAME AS A MUTHA!
As the online world took note of Franco's comment, producer Chris Hanley, who founded MUSE with his wife Roberta, attempted to fire back in a cheeky interview with Variety by pointing out how the actor does not seem to discriminate against roles he gets offered in studio sequels such as "The Great and Mighty Oz," "Spider Man" and "Planet of the Apes."
"I guess he thinks only 'too big to fail studio films' are the artistically valid ventures," Hanley told the publication.
Hanley himself is no stranger to sequels. After producing Mary Harron's "American Psycho" in 2000, he had an executive producer credit on the poorly received direct-to-video followup -- with which Harron had no involvement -- two years later.
According to Variety, Hanley and Jordan Gertner of Hero Entertainment (also a producer on the original and now the intended sequel) insist that they "have all rights to all prequels, sequels, remakes, animation spinoffs" for "Spring Breakers," which was the biggest commercial success of Korine's career, grossing more than $31 million worldwide (not counting its sizable performance on home entertainment platforms) -- over six times its $5 million production budget.
While MUSE has a long history of developing projects at Cannes, its track record with filmmakers is less consistent. Among the major filmmakers who have worked with Hanley in the past, including Harron, Sofia Coppola with "The Virgin Suicides" and Nick Cassavetes with the still-unreleased "Yellow," none of have worked with the company a second time.
Meanwhile, Wild Bunch arrived at Cannes this week to push "Spring Breakers: Second Coming," unveiling a graphic billboard across the street from the festival's headquarters, in the exact same location where a poster for the first film was unveiled two years ago:
While Hanley may have the rights to produce the sequel, his response to Franco registers as something of a red herring. Rather than claiming to take issue with the sequel concept, the actor accuses MUSE of trying to "make money off someone else's creativity" -- that "someone else" being Korine, who has yet to make a public statement about the situation. (Reports about a status update posted to Korine's Facebook page are incorrect; Korine is not on Facebook.)
Franco and Korine's public protests raise an important question about the ethics of Muse's decision to exclude Korine from a sequel -- particularly in light of a comment made by Roberta Hanley, in which she says that "we’ve done nothing but smuggle important artists into Hollywood."
Ironically, the prospects of an unauthorized "Spring Breakers" sequel runs counter that very notion: The film's massive success may have catapulted Korine's vision to the forefront of pop culture consciousness -- without him, the project loses the originality that made it succeed in the first place.
Rather than attempting to bring back Korine for the sequel, MUSE replaced him with Swedish director Akerlund, who has directed music videos for the likes of Madonna, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and Beyonce. His movie credits are spottier, however; the director's 2012 comedy "Small Apartments" was met with universal disdain from critics following its premiere at the SXSW Film Festival. (It currently has a "D" average on our Criticwire Network.)
The absence of a major box office success from both Akerland and Welsh's respective resumes also implies a relatively low budget for the project, which means that the various parties could be counting on a controversy to raise its profile at no cost.
Although Gertner cites "artistry" as the reason behind collaborating with new talent, his use of the past tense in describing MUSE and Hero's relationship with Korine is curious. "We had a great relationship with Harmony Korine," he told Variety, "and now we’re exploring a new incarnation of ‘Spring Breakers.'"