William Faulkner's classic novel As I Lay Dying is a famously dense story about the destitute Bundren clan and their calamitous journey to lay their matriarch, Addie, to rest in Jefferson, MS. The trip unleashes a dismal chain of events that leaves them all somehow changed or scarred — sometimes physically.
It seems fitting that Franco, an actor-slash-author himself, would combine his love for film and literature in his feature-length directorial debut. And he does an impressive job unraveling the complex narrative, which in the book is told by 15 different characters and jumps vaguely backward and forward in time. Sure, there's no doubt that it's ambitious for a first-time filmmaker to take on one of the most acclaimed novels in American history, but at least Franco's devotion to, and admiration of, the source material is clear. He does well capturing its Southern Gothic sensibility, shooting in the mostly drab colors of the Great Depression and drawing appropriately beaten-down performances from his actors.
James Edward Franco (born April 19, 1978) is an American actor and filmmaker. His first prominent acting role was the lead character Daniel Desario on the short-lived cult hit television program Freaks and Geeks. He later played the title character in the TV biographical film James Dean (2001), for which he won a Golden Globe Award. He played Harry Osborn in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy (2002–2007). He is also known for his roles in the films Flyboys (2006), Pineapple Express (2008), Milk (2008), 127 Hours (2010), Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), Oz the Great and Powerful (2013), Spring Breakers (2013), This Is the End (2013), and The Interview (2014). He had a recurring role in the ABC soap opera General Hospital. For his role in 127 Hours (2010), Franco was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. In 2014, he made his Broadway debut in Of Mice and Men. Recently, he starred against Nicole Kidman in The Queen of the Desert (2015) directed by Herzog.
Franco volunteers for the Art of Elysium charity and has taught a class at New York University in feature filmmaking and production. In 2013, he began teaching a course in short film production at the University of Southern California and a course in screenwriting at his alma mater, University of California, Los Angeles. In September 2015, Franco began teaching a film class to high school students at Palo Alto High School.