Saturday, April 13, 2024

Exclusive: James Franco, Scott Rudin and “Blood Meridian”: What Happened


c2015 Showbiz411– Quite a commotion yesterday about a possible James Franco directed “Blood Meridian” starring Russell Crowe. First it was on, then it was off. No explanations. But I may have some.

Let me take you back to January 3rd, 2011. That’s when I wrote this story: James Franco Planning to Director Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy Classics.

Well, Franco and manager Miles Levy had indeed worked out the Faulkner part of the deal, and as you know, went ahead and made “The Sound and the Fury” and “As I Lay Dying.” (They were not financial successes.)

They also had the rights to McCarthy’s “Child of God,” a novel no one really thought about. No one knew they had the rights. But Franco and Levy didn’t have the rights to “Blood Meridian,” the McCarthy novel Franco wanted to adapt into a movie. Producer Scott Rudin owns those rights.

But sources say Rudin had some other deals that involved Franco, too. He had Franco set up to play opposite Nicole Kidman in “Sweet Bird of Youth” on Broadway for Fall 2011. And he had plans for a film calledl “While We’re Young” written and to be directed by Noah Baumbach. Rudin had Ben Stiller as the lead, with Cate Blanchett as his wife, and James Franco and Greta Gerwig as the other, younger couple. It had all been announced.

In sum: Franco wanted to direct “Blood Meridian.” Rudin wanted him to act in “While We’re Young” and, sources say, was leveraging that against “Blood Meridian.” Plus, the whole “Sweet Bird of Youth” production was hanging in the balance.

Don’t forget, too, that Franco was a busy boy back then: hosting the Oscars in March, preparing for “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” and taking classes at four different colleges. He was also directing commercials and small indie films.

The colleges– Franco was at Yale the Monday of the 2011 Oscars week despite being a nominee for Best Actor (“127 Hours”) and co-host of the show. He nevertheless only arrived for rehearsals with Anne Hathaway on Thursday afternoon. The rush to rehearse, the lack of preparation and constantly changing script is what led to the chaos on the Sunday night show. The Oscars were panned, and Franco and Hathaway parted enemies.

Franco was overwhelmed with school,directing, teaching, etc. Three days after the Oscars fiasco, March 6, 2011, Franco pulled out of “While We’re Young.” Not pleased, Rudin then denied him the chance to direct “Blood Meridian.” Franco, sources told me, was disappointed but thought he had an ace in the hole. He had the rights to the earlier McCarthy book, “Child of God.” He’d make that movie instead, and the hell with Rudin.

Well, you never say ‘the hell with Rudin’. Franco’s relationship with Rudin was seriously damaged.  On August 30, 2011, it was announced that Franco was out of “Sweet Bird of Youth” with Nicole Kidman. And “Blood Meridian”? It wasn’t fated to be a major motion picture.

Franco would wind up on Broadway anyway in “Of Mice and Men” in spring 2014, without Scott Rudin as producer. (David Binder was lead producer.) He made “Child of God,” as planned and released it right after “Of Mice and Men” closed. The film played in 8 theaters and made a total of $39,324.

We know what happened to “While We’re Young”: the movie was eventually made and released in 2014 with Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, and Amanda Seyfried. (It was a favorite of mine but didn’t do much at the box office.)

How did this story about “Blood Meridian” get started again yesterday– and with Russell Crowe mixed in? I don’t know. Franco still doesn’t have the rights. I doubt Rudin is giving in. As far as I know, nothing has changed in all those relationships.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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