Holy cow! John Sayles is making a no-joke Django movie with Franco Nero

Oh, I see. Hollywood decided to get me all sorts of presents this month, and they”re just spacing them out so I don”t explode from joy on my actual birthday.

Today”s delightful news is that John Sayles is going to direct Django Lives with Franco Nero returning to play the title character. While I love Sayles and the diversity of his output as a writer/director, I admit a certain fondness for his genre work. When he wrote a script like The Howling or Alligator or Battle Beyond The Stars, he didn”t treat those jobs as garbage. Instead, he wrote with the same degree of invention and dedication, and as a result, many of those movies have aged incredibly well, better than a lot of the drive-in fare of the same era.

Franco Nero should have been a bigger movie star. The guy is pretty much just raw onscreen charisma, and I wonder if he could have had that bigger career if he had come along fifteen years later or so. We seem to have made room for leads like Arnold Schwarzenegger, and I”ll bet Nero could have been even bigger with the right films under his belt.

What I find most exciting about this project is that it sounds like Sayles is taking the exploitation origins of the Django series and using them to jump off and make something very, very different. According to Roger Friedman, who broke the news, the film is set a full 50 years after the first film, and Django is now a horse wrangler on the set of D.W. Griffith”s Birth of a Nation. That is such an irresistible premise that I”m dying to see what Sayles ends up making.

He”s never been above sneaking some social commentary into even his most overtly entertaining work, but he”s also never been shy about just tackling social issues head on. Here, he”s going to be able to play with the early days of Hollywood and the way filmmaking represented this brand-new frontier, and he”s going to be able to play with the production of a movie that basically invented modern long-form narrative and much of the film language we still use, but that is also an ideological garbage fire.

I know next to nothing beyond what was in Friedman”s piece, but I am so excited about the potential here, and it is always thrilling to see someone like Sayles who simply refuses to get sidelined by an industry that loves to pretend that artists have expiration dates.