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Arts and Entertainment

5 Things We Learned About 'Child Of God' From Director James Franco

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The multi-multi-hyphenate (actor-writer-director-teacher-poet, etc.) James Franco stopped by the Arclight Hollywood on Saturday night to do a Q&A after the screening of the film Child Of God, which opened this weekend. Based on the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name, Franco directed the film and co-wrote the script with Vince Jolivette. At the Arclight, he talked about the film and his intentions behind bringing McCarthy's dark novel to the big screen.

Child Of God tracks the deeply disturbed Lester Ballad, played by the intense Scott Haze, living off off the grid in rural 1960s Tennessee. We watch as Ballard moves further and further from his own humanity, engaging in disturbing sexual and violent (anti-)social practices. Particularly stomach-churning is Ballard's penchant for necrophilia.

Franco talked about the film, its subject matter, and more at the Arclight. Here are five things we learned:

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1. Franco was actually interested in filming another McCarthy book: "I was hoping to do Blood Meridian, which is his masterpiece." But with the dense material and complex story, Franco said it was hard to find a central character that would work. With Child of God, Franco had a main character—albeit unlikeable—with which to explore the concept of isolation.

2. The film has three definitive sections. The first section, Franco said, is an amalgam of McCarthy's interstitial book chapters, with storytellers in voiceover filtering Lester's story. Those filters are permanently removed in the second chapter—which Franco referred to as the “love story section of the movie” (you can guess what happens there). The third chapter focuses on Ballard as he goes completely off the rails, with the film finally revealing his murderous tendencies. "He doesn't kill for the thrill," Franco said, in trying to somewhat humanize the character's inhumanity. "He kills as a dark necessity to make companions."

3. Directors that inspired him for 'Child Of God'. An audience member asked whether he was inspired by Herzog while making the film. "Werner Herzog did inspire me, especially the five movies he did with Klaus Kinski." Danny Boyle, who directed Franco in 127 Hours, was mentioned several times as an influence in shooting long takes and capturing a character in isolation. Franco also said that Gus van Sant and the Dardenne brothers inspired his tone and camera work in the film.

4. On creating compassion for the character. "Maybe I was projecting... [Ballard] didn't lose me... I saw him trying to connect with others."

5. On the movie that changed his life. "Pineapple Express. I learned you can have fun and make movies with your friends and...they can be good."

Child Of God is now playing at the Arclight Hollywood.