I have add 25 HQ photos from the Hulu Original ‘11.22.63’ Premiere to the gallery.
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I have add 25 HQ photos from the Hulu Original ‘11.22.63’ Premiere to the gallery.
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The latest adaptation of one of bestselling author Stephen King’s novels, Hulu mini-series “11.22.63,” launched with a premiere at L.A.’s Bruin Theater on Thursday. Executive producer J.J. Abrams told Variety how an article that star James Franco wrote about the book led to the actor’s casting.
“When I read this piece that Franco had written, it was so passionate about this character, about this world, about this story,” Abrams said. “He was also, in the piece, giving me s–t for being involved in too many projects, so I thought at the very least I should reach out and see if he wanted to be involved in this one with me.”
Franco revealed that King’s time-travel novel was one of the first books that he picked up after having to read 150 for his oral exams as a student in the Yale English department. The book caught his eye, and he was pulled in.
“I had to read 150 books, a lot of them were academic books, and as soon as I had passed my oral exams, I had the chance to read whatever I wanted to read,” Franco said. “I immediately jumped into it — it’s about 1,000 pages, and it was so engrossing. I read it aloud with my assistant in about a week.”
Franco plays Jake Epping, a high school English teacher, who is tasked by his friend and diner owner Al Templeton (Chris Cooper) to travel back in time to stop the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The catch? Traveling through time always puts him in October 1960 — meaning that he has to spend three years in the past until the big event.
Both Abrams and showrunner Bridget Carpenter believed that the colossal King novel was better suited for a mini-series format than a feature film — which it was originally intended to be.
“This book felt too long, too detailed, too nuanced, to condense,” Abrams said. “I thought, maybe the better idea would be to let it breathe and let it exist in a longer form.”
“The novel is 900 pages; it’s huge,” Carpenter said. “There is such a wealth of not just information, but a wealth of story and plot. You don’t want to lose anything.”
Hulu will release the first episode of “11.22.63” — whose cast also includes Sarah Gadon, Josh Duhamel, Daniel Webber, George MacKay, Lucy Fry, T.R. Knight, Nick Searcy, Leon Rippy and Gil Bellows — on Feb. 15 (Presidents’ Day).
After the screening, Hulu staged a party at the nearby Broxton Lot, which had been converted into a ’60s-themed diner, complete with vintage Nixon and Kennedy campaign posters, classic TV sets and a DJ spinning ’60s tunes. Even the food complemented the retro theme, from the beef wellington hors d’oeuvres to the mini pecan and cherry pies.
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Don’t let Stephen King’s name fool you: The eight-part miniseries 11.22.63 may be adapted from the horror master’s 2011 best-seller, but the story about a down-on-his-luck English teacher tasked with time-traveling to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy isn’t exactly terrifying.
Not at first, anyway. When Jake (James Franco) leaves the present for the past through a portal in his friend Al’s (Chris Cooper) diner, he arrives in 1960 (not 1958, one of many tweaks from the book approved by King, who serves as an executive producer). Jake’s not yet too concerned with Lee Harvey Oswald (Daniel Webber), who’s still years away from plotting his fateful shots. He has time to settle down, upgrade his wardrobe, and, most important, fall for a young librarian named Sadie (Sarah Gadon) and the optimistic era she represents. “Honestly, this is a love story dressed in the coat of a spy thriller,” exec producer Bridget Carpenter tells EW. “It’s a man falling in love with not just the woman he meets in the ’60s, but the ’60s itself.”
But as time travelers tend to learn, time flies — and history doesn’t like to be changed. As Jake prepares for 1963, the scary starts happening — he dodges threatening obstacles like car crashes and freak fires that keep him from tracking Oswald; plus, he has to make sense of a world in which he doesn’t belong, a feeling Franco says he understands. “It’s discombobulating,” he says of playing a time-traveler. “Jake has to pretend he’s not from the future, so he’s performing. He’s doing what I do for a living.”
The detailed sets helped make pretending easier for the actor. Production aimed to make the past look alive by finding era-appropriate costumes that showed wear and tear and by using historical footage of the Kennedys in place of casting look-alikes. “I wanted not to feel like I was looking at the pages of a magazine from 1960,” Carpenter explains, “but to feel like I was surrounded by 1960.”
Still, nailing the look while also untangling storylines (and timelines) made for an intimidating writers’ room. “It looked like A Beautiful Mind,” Carpenter recalls, laughing. “There were cards packed on every single bulletin board, and some tucked into corners.”
Even more packed was Franco’s schedule. He found time to direct an episode, though he originally wanted to do even more, having asked King after reading the novel if he could work on bringing the story to screen. But by then, J.J. Abrams was already on the job as EP. “I said, ‘Well, there’s no way I’m gonna outbid J.J. Abrams,’ ” Franco says, laughing. Luckily, he didn’t totally lose out. “Weeks later, J.J. emailed and said, ‘I think you’d be great as the lead.’”
11.22.63 hits Hulu on Feb. 15.
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One of Hollywood’s enduring mysteries is how James Franco does it all — acting, directing, writing books, teaching university classes, pursuing multiple post-graduate degrees and, occasionally, (rumor has it) sleeping.
Now the multihyphenate star of “Milk” and “127 Hours” has another new venture, a nonprofit film studio that he says combines many of his passions — making films, teaching student filmmakers and benefiting his favorite charity.
Elysium Bandini Studios brings together the Art of Elysium charity with Franco’s Rabbit Bandini production banner to support the film projects of students and professionals, with any proceeds going entirely to Art of Elysium. The 19-year-old charity brings actors and other artists into contact with people in need — from hospitalized children, to the elderly and homeless to, soon, veterans and prisoners. As many as 4,000 artists work with needy clients on projects ranging from essays to poetry to plays, films and art installations.
Franco and producing partner Vince Jolivette met in an acting class two decades ago, and began volunteering in 2005 with Art of Elysium, putting on Christmas plays at a children’s hospital, making films and raising money. The duo also began making student films.
The plan for bigger things emerged in a 2012 meeting with Art of Elysium founder and CEO Jennifer Howell. “We thought we could create a nonprofit film studio where we gave talented young filmmakers a platform to do their thing and fulfill their artistic vision, plus give back to the community through Art of Elysium,” said Jolivette. “To us, that was so much.” Added Howell: “It was everything.”
The upstart operation already has finished 14 features — most directed by students from UCLA, Cal Arts, USC and NYU (all schools where Franco has taught filmmaking) — some featuring well-known names including Natalie Portman, Kristen Wiig, Jimmy Kimmel, Jessica Chastain, Whoopi Goldberg and Franco. “When these actors come back and work with the young people, it’s a great reminder of the joy of what we do, and why we got into it in the first place,” Franco said.
“Yosemite,” from director Gabrielle Demeestere, features Franco in the story of young people growing up in the Bay Area; it got solid reviews and a brief theatrical release. Other Elysium Bandini creations are available for distribution. The intent is to create a steady source of funds for Art of Elysium, a favorite charity of many in Hollywood, including Kirsten Dunst, Eva Mendes, producer Tim Headington, Amber Heard and Johnny Depp.
Jolivette, Howell and Franco are running the fledgling shingle, though they hope to eventually find an executive to take over. Funding has come from multiple donors and via innovative channels, such as an Indiegogo campaign that brought in $689,000 for three initial Elysium Bandini films. Franco says the road to positive cash flow is within reach, because the vast majority of workers on both sides of the camera donate their time. And their films typically cost $200,000 or less.
“This is students and charity coming together to make their own thing, a new thing,” Franco said. “Hopefully, it’s a model that can expand, and there can be others besides me who can take on these projects.”
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The actor headlines Hulu’s J.J. Abrams miniseries based on the best-selling book by Stephen King.
The 1960s were a tumultuous time, an era of upheaval and protest and change, much of which came about after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. And for the characters of Hulu’s new miniseries 11.22.63, changing that one event holds the answer to a better American in 2016. Lucky for them, they’ve discovered a time portal that leads to a time and place a few years prior to the assassination, so high school English teacher Jake Epping (James Franco) heads back in time to try and prevent JFK from being killed. Along the way, he’s both entranced and repelled by an earlier America, and he discovers the past can be awfully resistant to change.
Based on the 2012 Stephen King best-seller and exec produced by J.J. Abrams, the series premieres on Presidents’ Day (naturally). We talked to Franco about playing a character who is himself acting all the time, and whether he would change the past if he had the same opportunity.
You’re known for picking eclectic projects. How did you decide to work on this one?
I had been preparing for my oral exams at Yale for my PhD in English, and I had to read 150 books that I would be tested on by five professors, so it took me about a year and a half to prepare for that. As soon as I was done, I was like, ‘Oh, man, I’ve been in this hole where I’ve only been reading to prepare for this test. Now I can read whatever I want.’ And I remembered that I’d seen 11/22/63 in a bookstore at the airport, and thought it looked great. So it was the first book that I read after the test, and I loved it. It was over 1,000 pages, but I read it really quickly, and I remember thinking it was really cinematic. Through a friend who knew him, I got Stephen King’s email address and wrote to him and asked him if the rights were available, because I’d heard that he was very generous with his material. He said, “Oh, I’d love to do something with you, but J.J. Abrams already has the rights to the book and he’s doing it as a series for Hulu.”
I thought, “Well, there goes that. There’s no way I’m going to beat J.J. out for the rights.” So I just wrote a little review of the book for Vice, and then I guess J.J. read it, and a couple weeks later I got an email from him and he said, “Hey, I love everything you love about the book. I’m doing this series, would you consider playing Jake?”
Jake is a modern man living in a very different time. Was that something you were conscious of when you were portraying him, that you wanted to act like a modern guy stuck in 1960?
That concept was one of my favorite things about the book and the scripts, was that Jake isn’t from this time. As an actor, I’ve done period pieces before, and in those conventional period pieces, you, as an actor, try to act like a character who’s from that period. You don’t see the seams of how the filmmakers create that period. You just want the audience to feel like, “OK, we’re back in time.” But in this case, the character is not of that time. He becomes this really interesting figure who can point out things to the audience about what was great about the past. Like, the food tastes different, the milk tastes better, the pie is so good. And then he can point out things that were horrible or worse than they are now, like Jim Crow laws and things like that.
It’s a unique storytelling device where the main character really becomes an ambassador for the audience to highlight different things about the past and what he’s looking at. But then, in addition to that, what the character Jake has to do is, he has to fit into the past. He’s not of that time. People did things differently back then. He is essentially doing what I do as an actor when I play a role. He is taking on different colloquialisms or different sayings of a period. He is dressing in a different way. He is behaving in a different way. Because he is trying to fit into the past. And so as an actor, playing somebody who essentially is being an actor himself, I don’t know, it was just fun.
There’s a self-consciousness about how he’s behaving in the world.
Yeah, I love that. I love that aspect of it, that there is this justification — because of the setup — for meta commentaries, or these very self-aware commentaries about what’s going on.
Why do you think Jake agrees to the mission? It’s kind of an insane task, to give up years of your life to try and do this thing that you may not even succeed at. Why is he up for it?
Jake’s life in 2016 isn’t really going the way that he had always dreamed that it would. I guess when he was younger, he probably dreamed of getting married and starting a family and becoming a novelist, and none of those things have worked out. We find him, he’s divorced, his novel never went anywhere, his high school English students don’t seem that interested in what he’s trying to teach. And so he doesn’t really have that much going on in the present.
And then in addition to that, Chris Cooper’s character, Al, the one who introduces him to the time portal and asks him to go on this mission, is so emphatic and believes so deeply in this mission and that by saving JFK, maybe the country and the world will be a better place.
Does that make him the right man for the job?
Well, one of the things that I like about the project is that Jake isn’t a spy. He doesn’t have any military background or anything like that. So he is in some ways not well equipped to take on a mission like this. But in other ways he’s smart and resourceful. I like playing characters like that, where it’s sort of an everyman character who is asked to rise to certain circumstances when he’s called upon.
Right place right time, rather than “You are chosen for this.”
Yeah, it’s not like he’s Harry Potter, like you’re the Chosen One and you’re the only one who can do this. It’s more like, Al has nobody else he can turn to, so please do this.
If you had the opportunity Jake has, would you want to change things? Or would you want to just go back to observe what’s happening?
That’s so tricky. I would say yes, there are certain things that you just would want to warn people about, but on the other hand, if I look back at just the small events of my own life, I know that sometimes the hardest things I had to go through or the most adverse things I had to experience are the things that changed me for the better. Just a really small example is, when I was younger, I did a series of movies that I really didn’t like. I worked really hard on them, but they weren’t movies that I cared about. And after they came out, I just felt so awful. So I could say, oh, I would go back and not do those movies, but in fact by doing those movies, I realized, oh, never make decisions based on career or what other people tell you anymore. Only do projects that you care about, that you believe in, and that idea really just came out of having a bad experience on those movies. So it’s hard to say. Yeah, you want to go and save a lot of people or whatever, but the butterfly effect? Who knows what other horrible thing you might enable if you go change one thing?
11.22.63 premieres on Monday, Feb. 15, on Hulu.
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Fortitude will launch the project to foreign buyers at Berlin’s European Film Market; Justin Kelly is writing and directing.
Kristen Stewart, James Franco and Helena Bonham Carter are circling the biopic JT Leroy, a Hollywood-set transgender story.
Justin Kelly, who directed James Franco in 2015’s I Am Michael, will helm the film from a script he wrote. The true story goes behind the scenes of the hoax of JT LeRoy, a woman who pretended to be a man who identifies as transgender, tricking the rich and famous in Hollywood, the fashion world and elite literary circles.
The biopic will be based on memoir and life rights of Savannah Kroop, who was behind the complicated ruse. LBI Entertainment, Aquarius and Rabbit Bandini Productions are producing with Aquarius providing equity financing.
Franco is attached while Stewart and Carter are currently in negotiations. Fortitude International will launch the project to foreign buyers at Berlin’s European Film Market, with a 2016 production start date planned. CAA is repping domestic rights.
Kelly is no stranger to bringing fascinating real-life tales to the big screen. I am Michael, which was based on New York Times Magazine article My Ex-Gay Friend, centered on a man, Michael Glatze, a gay activist who renounced homosexuality after he became a Christian pastor. It screened at both Sundance and Berlin in 2015. He’s repped by CAA and LBI Entertainment.
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James Franco, Andrew Neel and Killer Films are set to re-team for an adaption of Zola Tells All: The Real Story Behind The Greatest Stripper Saga Ever Tweeted, based on a Rolling Stone article by David Kushner. Franco will direct a script by Neel and Mike Roberts. The pic is based on a 148-tweet travelogue about a trip taken to Florida by Aziah “Zola” Wells, who went with her friend Jessica and her boyfriend, as well as Jessica’s violent pimp, named Z. Kushner wrote about the event in the magazine in November.
Franco and Vince Jolivette are producing through their Rabbit Bandini Productions with Killer Films’ Christine Vachon and David Hinojosa and Gigi Films’ Gia Walsh and Kara Baker. Franco, Neel and Killer Films most recently collaborated on Goat, the frat-hazing drama that premiered at Sundance and sold to Paramount Home Media. CAA is repping domestic distribution.
Franco is CAA, Untitled Entertainment and Sloane Offer; Neel is also represented by Washington Square Films.