One of James Ellroy‘s most acclaimed novels, American Tabloid has so much packed in its pages that a screen incarnation remains challenging. The only we’ve been told of, up to now, is a Tom Hanks-backed incarnation that would air on HBO — which has been silent for some time. Regardless of what potential could there is to be mined, recent news indicates that it may have languished long enough for rights to land back with its original owners.
And, now, land into unexpected hands. Speaking to MTV, the multi-hyphenate of American film dropped the news that he, actually, will adapt Ellroy’s book — presumably for the big screen, too. Still, that last note is something I’ve only assumed quickly, in considering that he, ostensibly a film person, hasn’t mentioned any network (like HBO) in conjunction. That aspect would be kind of important, right? But it’s still so early, as Franco is willing to admit while also as saying that the project is “not all put together yet.”
He probably means it: American Tabloid, as a film, would need to be adapted carefully, seeing as each thread is carefully layered into a greater story of intrigue and theme of corruption. Remove a few — which you’d have to do for purposes of length, anyway — and you risk getting a more traditional crime story. Which could still be good, but not necessarily Ellroy.
So we have to ask whether James Franco is the proper artist to make it happen. Most of his directorial work — including this year’s Sundance project, Interior. Leather Bar. — is small, experimental, and, of course, esoteric, descriptors that wouldn’t completely align with the novel. The acid test? Other than Blood’s a Rover — the third installment in the trilogy started by American Tabloid, recently optioned for film — hat comes from his next adaptation of an acclaimed author, when we see his take on Cormac McCarthy‘s Child of God. The As I Lay Dying film won’t be such a bad addition, either, but an idea as to its status would probably be necessary first; it’s possible the same will end up happening here.
How do you feel about Franco tackling American Tabloid? Is this a book you want to see adapted?
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