Franklin working with Franco to have novels turned into movies

Published 6:00 am Sunday, August 28, 2016

Oxford’s Tom Franklin is excited that James Franco is developing three of his books as movies because Franco “gets films made.”

Franco is developing Franklin’s “Smonk,” “Poachers” and “Hell at the Breech” with partner Vince Jolivette. The films will be produced through Franco and Jolivette’s Rabbit Bandini Productions.

They plan to shoot each of the three movies based on Franklin’s award-winning Southern gothic works in the next one to three years.

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Playwright David Van Asselt will reportedly adapt “Poachers,” the collection of short stories that won the Edgar Award and established Franklin as one of the South’s most powerful writers.

Franklin himself will adapt “Smonk,” set in 1911 in his native state of Alabama where a man named E.O. Smonk has been “destroying property, killing livestock, seducing women, and beating men every Saturday night for a year, all from behind the twin barrels of his Winchester 45-70 caliber over-and-under rifle.”

“I’m happy about this announcement but also have had enough experience with this industry to know this is still a very long way from movies being produced,” Franklin said. “What I love about Franco, though, is that he does in fact get films made.

“And his range is so wide. He does Faulkner and Spiderman with equal skill!”

Franco is a noted actor, producer and director.

“There are no plans at this point for James to act or direct, just for us to produce,” Lolivette told Variety. “We feel the material is rich enough to attract A-level talent.”

Franklin, who arrived in Oxford about 15 years ago as the Grisham Writer in residence, received word last summer that Franco was interested in his works and was hoping to land all three in development. They later met and discussed the books and Franklin’s potential role in “Smonk.”

“When we met him back in March he was incredibly nice,” Franklin said.  “And, I recall, he was reading Frank Norris.”

Franklin is married to writer Beth Ann Fennelly who was named Mississippi Poet Laureate last week.

Franklin, the author of the New York Times bestseller “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter,” recently was announced as the 2016 recipient of the Berlin Prize, which the American Academy in Berlin awards to scholars, writers and artists. The prize includes a semester-long fellowship in Germany.

Franklin, who has taught at UM since 2003, is among 23 recipients of the prize and will begin his fellowship this fall. He will work on a novel, which is currently titled “Country Dark,” about a rural Alabama police officer named Rick Miller who mainly investigates farm-related crimes. While probing a strange animal death, Miller, who is referred to as “The Cow Man,” uncovers something entirely unexpected, including a connection to a cultish church with an interesting past.