Michael Shannon is without a doubt one of the best actors working today. James Franco is the premiere poet, actor, director, writer, and probably a bunch of other not-so-nice words, too. So, what happens when they team up? They make a 14-minute short film from 2010 where the Boardwalk Empire star has sex with a corpse, that’s what. Check out what Franco has to say about it.
Once I decided to adapt Herbert White, I had to figure out what would stay in the narrative. I was struck by two moments at the beginning of the poem that led to an approach for the entire film. The first is at the very beginning, when he says, “I hit her on the head and it was good.” This is a mysterious line. Read alone, it’s ambiguous. What world allows a woman’s struck head to be “good”? I used my initial reaction to this one line to shape how I would depict the mystery around what Herbert was doing in the woods. In other words, the opening of the film was directly influenced by the ambiguity of the first line of the poem. In the film he is dragging something that can’t be seen through the woods and then he hit it and he nods as if in approval, as if it was good.
The other surprising thing for me was that Herbert has a family. He mentions leaving them in the car while he goes into the woods to have sex with the corpse. This implies a depth to him, that he isn’t simply a monster. He has a family that he supports. But more than all that, it implies that he has a secret life. And this tension between the public/family life and the secret shameful life is what I built my film on.
James Franco is a weird man. Watch the thing here.