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James Franco explores isolation and desolation in 'Child of God'

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It might be an understatement to say that “Child of God” (based on the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name) is not an easy movie to watch. Directed and co-written by James Franco, “Child of God” tells the story of Lester Ballard (played by Scott Haze), a degenerate criminal fugitive who is hiding out in the backwoods. Franco has a small acting role in the movie as one of the townspeople who go on the hunt for Lester.

On the surface, the movie sounds like cat-and-mouse thriller. But the story is really about Lester’s isolation and madness, which includes his sadistic violence and a disturbing scene that shows him committing necrophilia. “Child of God” had its U.S. premiere at the 2013 New York Film Festival in New York City, where Franco did a press conference by Skype hours before the movie’s premiere at the festival. Here is what he said.

What attracted you to “Child of God”?

I first read the book about seven years ago at a class at UCLA. I had gone back to finish my bachelor’s degree. There was a class on [Cormac] McCarthy. So we basically read all of his work. I loved most of them, but there were a couple that stood out to me: “Blood Meridian” and “Child of God.”

I heard a lot of people, like [Steven] Spielberg, talk about this, that when you come across something that interests you or inspires you. Maybe you don’t know all the reasons at the moment why you want to make it, but you don’t really need to know. You can explore it through the creative process. So I guess I had that: the hairs tingling on the back of my neck. I knew it was a very dark book, but there was something in there.

After making it and thinking about it, I think that in addition to the great writing and the way the book was structured and the unusual character portrait is that it was a way to talk about things that I thought were universal — this need for a connection with an other, someone outside of ourselves, the need to love and be loved. The movie is about that, but told in a very extreme and unusual way, which is basically through necrophilia. And so, as a filmmaker… those were all of the reasons I wanted to make movies. It was something new, but it was something that people could relate to.

For more info: "Child of God" website

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