Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thursday, March 19, 2009:

Yesterday and today we recreated the Six Gallery in a vacant West Village storefront. The Six Gallery is where Allen Ginsberg read Howl publicly for the first time. Our ingenious production designer Therese DePrez (High Fidelity, American Splendor, Hedwig and the Angry Inch) created an extraordinary space - a funky gallery, complete with artwork wherever you looked, low-hanging lights, mismatched tables and chairs, a piano, a hookah, and all of the odds and ends you would expect to find in this place where a group of poets gathered in 1955 to hear Ginsberg's revolutionary new kind of poetry. Theatrical smoke was pumped through the room as a final touch to add more atmosphere.

For the first day of shooting at the Six Gallery, over thirty extras filled the space, as well as the actors playing Kerouac, Cassady and Orlovsky - they each reacted to Howl in their own personal ways, as different stanzas meant different things to each of them. Kerouac passed around a bottle of wine and shouted, "Go! Go!" just as he was reported to have done that night in 1955.

James Franco recited the poem as Ginsberg did, only James had to do it take after take for two days (the first day with extras, the second day by himself). He tirelessly recited it with as much conviction on the evening of the second day as he had the morning of the first day. Even when he was off camera, James read the poem full out in order to get the best reaction shots from the crowd. James commitment was extraordinary and his passion evident in every take. He made his way through the lengthy and gut-wrenching poem, finding both the humor and heartbreak in each verse of Howl the cadences of James voice brought to life the spirit of Ginsberg. James' months and months of research on Ginsberg for this movie was evident even in how he carried his body when performing as young Ginsberg - the way he raised his hand in the air for emphasis was just like Ginsberg's gesticulations in various photographs.

We also filmed a small moment between Ginsberg and his longtime lover Peter Orlovsky, sitting back-to-back on two opposite park benches (based on an actual photo taken of them in Paris). Though they weren't even facing each other, the intimacy between them was palpable. Peter is played by Aaron Tveit, who will be seen in the forthcoming Broadway musical Next to Normal. (Also, he will play the Leonardo DiCaprio role in a musical version of Catch Me If You Can on Broadway next season).

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