As if James Franco weren’t already a same-sex heartthrob after Milk, his student films are inspired by gay poetry. His first student film was based on “The Feast of Stephen” by Anthony Hecht (“Boys for the first time frankly eye each other …”), and his most recent was inspired by “Herbert White” by Frank Bidart. At a Gucci-hosted cocktail party for an art film called Erased James Franco, Franco said he discovered Bidart while studying poetry at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. “This teacher brought it into class, and everybody was kinda shocked. It’s very dark and it’s about this guy. He’s a murderer, a necrophiliac, and it’s in a poem, right?” said Franco. “What struck me is that it’s a kind of a confessional poem, or a dramatic monologue. It’s as if the poet is using this crazy man as a mask to express certain feelings and go to an extreme place where those feelings could be felt.” Later, he met Bidart through one of his NYU professors. “Nobody was really beating down his door to make a movie out of it—I don’t think most poets get movies out.” Bidart told Franco he’d based the poem on a case study he’d read. “He took that and then infused a lot of his own feelings growing up in Bakersfield, California, being a young gay man in the closet, having nobody to express his feelings to, and also looking for cultural outlets and not really having them,” said Franco. “He took all of those issues and fused them into this one personality. I guess Yeats talks about this anti-self. It’s using this character, putting your own feelings into them, and putting him in the situation you are in, but then not giving him the recourse of becoming the poet he became.” Or a filmmaker. Michael Shannon will play the lead. Franco is also starring as Allen Ginsberg in the upcoming Howl.
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