John Ary here with a recap of James Franco's North American premiere of Tar.
The Alamo Drafthouse hosted the eclectic filmmaker Wednesday night as he squeezed in an appearance before receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Thursday and a return trip back to Austin on Sunday for a SXSW showing of Spring Breakers. As part of his first directorial class as an instructor at NYU, he gave each of his students their choice of a poem from C.K. Williams' book Tar. They each made a short using one of two cinematographers and several A-list performers including Jessica Chastain, Mila Kunis, and Bruce Campbell. The film uses Tree of Life for much of its inspiration, complete with quiet upward shots of characters as they solemnly walk through Instagram colored landscapes while Franco recites a Williams poem.
Even though the film is directed by 12 different people, it flows together well, establishing a longview of Williams' life via intimate moments. According to Franco, they still plan to tweak a few things before pursuing distribution. We caught up to him before the show, where he explained why he wanted to pursue the project and how he fit it in while shooting Oz in Detroit.
After the movie, Franco did a 40-minute Q&A which you can see in its entirety here. I think his most interesting response of the evening came from a question about how he selects his roles. He's very "director-driven" now, choosing to work with people he trusts on larger projects like Oz and smaller-scale films like Spring Breakers.
James Franco has secured himself a unique place in cinema as both an outsider doing crazy "art" projects like his run on General Hospital, experimental films like Tar and his independent filmography, along with large studio releases like Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Oz and the Spider-Man trilogy. I find his insights into the filmmaking process fascinating and I continue to look forward to see what he has up his sleeve next. I'll be covering SXSW with the rest of the AICN crew through next weekend.