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Lights, camera, action in Canton again -- this time for Faulkner


Golden Globe-nominated actor James Franco will direct his adaptation of William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying” in and around Canton, starting in September.

Golden Globe-nominated actor James Franco will direct his adaptation of William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying” in and around Canton, starting in September. Photo by: Courtesy photo


Jan Swoope





[email protected] 


After almost six years in the planning stages, James Franco's "As I Lay Dying," based on William Faulkner's 1930 novel of the same name, will begin filming in Canton in September. 


Franco will direct and act in the iconic author's layered tale of a poor Southern family trying to move their mother's corpse by wagon through harsh terrain, to fulfill the matriarch's wish to be buried in fictional Jefferson, Mississippi. 


"It's an honor to be adapting a Faulkner novel, and a pleasure to be able to film in Mississippi locations, where the story was set," said Franco in an interview posted at 


According to reports in the Clarion-Ledger, the film will be co-produced by Franco and Lee Caplin, who is executive manager of the Faulkner estate and also founder and chair of Picture Entertainment Corp. The cast is rumored to include Joaquin Phoenix, Michael Shannon, Paul Dano and Richard Jenkins, among others. 


"As I Lay Dying" was Faulkner's fifth novel; it is narrated by more than a dozen characters. 


"I want to be loyal to the book -- my approach is always to be loyal in a lot of ways -- but in order to be loyal, I will have to change some things for the movie," Franco is quoted as saying in the Los Angeles Times. 




Tapping resources 


The state's tax incentive program for film production is a big draw for filmmakers, said Mississippi Film Commission Manager Ward Emling, in an Aug. 7 article in the Clarion-Ledger. Mississippi allows for a cash rebate on a percentage of production expenses. 


Casting calls for some main and supporting roles were held Wednesday in Jackson, and on Friday and Saturday in Canton. Shooting is expected to last approximately five weeks. 


"We think we have a strong base of actors in Mississippi," Emling stated. "They're going to find a talent level they're probably not planning on finding." 


An Aug. 8 article at reports that producers had originally hoped to shoot in Oxford, where Faulkner lived, but local hotels were so booked for Ole Miss football games, there was not sufficient lodging for cast and crew. 


But Canton is ready. The Madison County city very near Jackson has been the setting for several major films, including "A Time to Kill, "My Dog Skip" and "O Brother Where Art Thou." 


"You can do a film like 'As I Lay Dying' that has a small budget and a big story because there are so many people (in Mississippi) willing to help," said Jeremy Hariton in the Clarion-Ledger. Hariton markets and operates Canton's film studio through RoadTown Enterprises. 


Some crew positions -- such as grips, wardrobe, props and camera assistants -- may still be open. Those interested can send resumés, complete with references with phone contact information, to [email protected]


Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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