The film blogosphere loves screenwriter/director Charlie Kaufman, and with good reason. His mindbending screenplays and films (“Synecdoche, New York,” “Adaptation,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind“) are surreal, challenging, hilariously bizarre, profound and moving, so he is beloved by many cinephiles who value something other than the cookie-cutter norm. Consequently, when quotes from actress Elizabeth Banks started spreading today about the viability and potential death of Kaufman’s next project “Frank Or Francis” — an ambitious satire of Hollywood set to music, where a film director feuds with a blogger — people understandably got worried.
“We didn’t get to shoot that movie,” Banks said when asked about the status of the film while doing press for her current film, “People Like Us.” “It was ready to go, and, as many movies do, it fell apart at the last minute.” This echoes comments that would-be “Frank or Francis” co-star Kevin Kline said when he suggested the film had fallen apart early in 2012 and was still looking for financing. “It’s difficult to talk about because they keep moving the start date,” Kline said in April. “I haven’t talked to Charlie Kaufman in four or five months. I’m waiting for a start date before I take it seriously.”
In “Frank or Francis” Steve Carell was set to play Frank, a pretentious, charlatan of a filmmaker and Jack Black would have played Francis, his nemesis in the form of an online commenter who tears down the director at every turn (more details of this Hollywood send-up are here). Nicolas Cage was set to play Alan Modell, a fat-suit-wearing comedian who is also known as The Emcee due to his Oscar-hosting duties and the cast would have been rounded out by Banks (who replaced Kate Winslet despite reports that continue to include her in the cast), Catherine Keener, Kevin Kline, Paul Reubens and Jacki Weaver.
So is the project dead? Not quite, but it doesn’t seem to be moving forward either. Reps for Charlie Kaufman will only allow that the project has been “postponed,” and that makes complete sense given the amount of work that Kaufman has moved on to recently, including his first novel, an HBO series and the adaptation of the sci-fi young adult novel, “Chaos Walking” for Lionsgate.
We described the screenplay a few months ago as “a deliciously good and contemptuous (though self-aware) screed/send-up of the film industry.” It’s brilliant, monumentally wacky and out-there and it would be sad if this wildly ambitious picture didn’t make it to the screen. Evidently we’ll have to wait, but who knows for how long. Optimistically, we’ll point you to “Lawless,” a picture that fell apart in its early incarnation (with actors like Ryan Gosling and Amy Adams mooted as members of its cast), but came back to life when Annapurna Pictures decided to pony up and fund it (it was met with good press at Cannes earlier this year and comes out in late August of this year via The Weinstein Company).
Also, let’s note. Banks herself still holds out hope. “I honestly don’t know where that film is at,” she said. “We were supposed to make it sooner, but it’s been pushed. I think they’re waiting for everybody’s lives to come back together…I don’t really know anything about it.” Megan Ellison, your move?