James Franco & Scott Haze on Creativity, Brutality, and 'Child of God'

Friday, August 01, 2014

Actor/filmmaker James Franco (L) and actor Scott Haze attend the 'Child Of God' premiere at Tribeca Grand Hotel on July 30, 2014 in New York City. (Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty)

 

Click Here to listen to the extended version of this interview.

Lester Ballard, the protagonist of Cormac McCarthy's novel "Child Of God," is easy to hate. He's violent, he's morally corrupt, and he's into necrophilia. 

James Franco directed and co-wrote the new film adaption of the book. The movie is a character study of Lester Ballard, played by Scott Haze. Lester is living in isolation in rural Tennessee, and spirals into a dark, twisted, crime-riddled existence.

Franco says he relied on subtle comedy to help audiences stay with such a grim tale. Here, Franco and Haze describe what compels them about Lester Ballard's character, and Franco defends his own unique artistic progression. 

"What I found out when I started adapting the book is that when you normally have a character like this, he is being tracked down by the detectives," says Franco. "Rarely do you have a character like this who is at the center of the film in such a prominent way. My goal was not to make Lester sympathetic—in no way do I condone his behavior—but it's within the realm of art."

Franco says that this film is designed to examine human behavior, not tell a moralistic tale.

"I'm using a monster to talk about more universal, human things," he says. "If I'm going to use a monster like this, I don't want to repel the audience. I want to shock them, but I want them to stay with us—I don't want them to kind of shut off emotionally from him. Comedy is such a powerful tool for bringing an audience onto the side of a character. If the audience can laugh with a character, you've won them over."

The film is heavily focused on Lester, which led Haze to carefully prepare for the role. 

"Cormac's writing, it doesn't lend a lot of itself to the inner workings of what Lester is feeling," says Haze. "A lot of times when I was reading the novel, I tried to approach it in the sense of just thinking about, 'What is this man going through?' There are certain elements that I think that are really at play—of feeling really alone, wanting to connect, wanting to be loved, and wanting to have a family."

Haze says that Lester was ostracized by society, cast away, and wasn't shown love.

"I think in living that stuff out, those are human desires that I think every human has—to want to feel connected, to belong to a group, or to belong to a society," says Haze. "That is something I wanted to convey."

Franco himself is a little difficult to judge. He's an actor, writer, and director. He's a student, a teacher, and an artist. Tomorrow, he will probably be something else entirely.

"We live in a postmodern age, and form is so fluid," he says. "A lot of people are stuck in these old ideas where a creative person needs to stay with one thing. I see form matching content, so the goal is not to put feather in my cap each time I do something new. It's just to explore."

Check out a trailer for the film below.

Guests:

James Franco and Scott Haze

Hosted by:

Todd Zwillich

Produced by:

Kristen Meinzer

Editors:

Allie Ferguson and T.J. Raphael

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