Back when I was a dewy-faced college girl of 21, I had the rare opportunity of seeing Allen Ginsberg read his poetry at UMass Dartmouth (for just $5!!). He was a sick man then (I don't know if he'd been diagnosed with liver cancer yet, but it would have appeared that he was certainly suffering from it), but he still managed to stay on stage for a long time and give an amazing performance. To accompany a few of the pieces, he played some sort of beautifully lacquered, bellows-driven musical instrument (I hesitate to use the generic word 'squeezebox,' but it was definitely neither an accordion nor a concertina). I didn't appreciate this then, but, looking back now, I see how its use emphasized the "breath-length" form he employed in some of his poetry. Genius.
I bring up this old poetry reading because I just found out yesterday that Pineapple Express actor James Franco will play Allen Ginsberg in a biopic about the 1957 obscenity trial related to the publication of Ginsberg's famous poem Howl. I read that and thought . . . "Hmm."
I know portraying a real-life figure involves much more than looking the part, but I'm still having quite a bit of difficulty envisioning GQ-pretty Franco as Ginsberg.
When I think of a present-day actor who might work well as a Ginsberg double, I think of the likes of comedian David Cross of Arrested Development. Anyone else with me on this one?
I know, I know. I need to give the kid a chance. After all, why wouldn't Franco be good for the part? He's already made one stoner movie - and what was Ginsberg if not a stoner? . . . Okay, that last remark might be a little too glib. On a more serious note, Franco is currently enrolled in creative writing courses at UCLA, so perhaps he's also secretly a poetry buff. If my movie-viewing experience has taught me anything, it is that sometimes actors can pleasantly surprise you. For instance, . . .
When I initially heard that Cate Blanchett would be playing Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator, I scoffed,"Ha! A casting director somewhere is about to lose his/her job." . . . But, then, I saw the movie and was blown away by Blanchett's portrayal. She even got Hepburns' very unique voice cadence just right. I was impressed. Of course, this all begs the question - "But does Franco have the acting chops to pull off a 'Blanchett'?" That, my friends, remains to be seen, . . . but I'm looking forward to finding out. The movie should be out sometime in 2009. Keep an eye out for it.