While one’s personal appreciation for the films of Charlie Kaufman might vary — Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless, and Synecdoche, New York — he is definitely one of the most creative and original screenwriters of the last two decades, if not one of the most unique voices in film history that is also capable of having mass audience appeal. Thus far, he has only directed one of his own scripts, but they all have that same Spike Jonze feel from Malkovich, even George Clooney’s directorial debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (a quality his follow-up, Good Night, and Good Luck definitely lacked). That feeling boils down to being awed by how much you enjoy (or not) the mindfuckening induced by every thrust of his pen. Or, keystroke, whatever. I don’t pretend to know his process.
Undoubtedly, this feeling will also be… felt… in his two new movies currently working their way through the movie making machine. There’s the untitled political satire, set to star the newly unretired Joaquin Phoenix and to be directed by Kaufman stalwart Spike Jonze, about “world leaders who meet in secret to pull strings and plan major events.” With Jonze and Kaufman behind the wheel and navigating from the passenger seat, respectfully, that project could finally be the successor to Dr. Strangelove that we sorely need. But the script that’s got everyone all a-flutter is Frank and Francis, which is, not to put too fine a point on it, about you and me. (And everyone else.)
Steve Carrell has signed on to play fictional filmmaker (screenwriter, director, actor) Frank Arder, who plays every role in his highbrow, Oscar winning take on The Nutty Professor movies, You. Jack Black will be playing Francis Deems, a frequent film blogger/commenter who gains a following of his own when he is quick to grouse about Arder’s work, and Nicolas Cage is said to be portraying Alan Modell, an actor/comedian whose last starring role was in a movie called Fat Dad and is hosting the Frank and Francis Oscar ceremony. Although, Playlist believes Black’s and Cage’s roles will be reversed, Vulture and Variety are reporting the former, and frankly, I can see both in either role. Kevin Kline is also attached to co-star in the possibly triple-duty role of a director, his super scientist brother, and the computer programmed they have designed to spit out the perfect movie. That perfect movie’s title? God.
Oh, and anytime someone posts a blog/comment on the Internet, the text will be sung, in an extended homage to movie musicals in a film said to be rife with metatextual references. Because it wouldn’t be a Charlie Kaufman film without the metatextual. So, it isn’t all that surprising that Kaufman is taking this film on as his second directed feature after Synecdoche, which is another story that needed his particular understanding of the material to really express it appropriately. Kaufman himself describes making Frank or Francis as such:
“If I look at some of the things in the script that I’m about to embark on, I’d have to say I don’t really have any idea how we’re going to do it[.] I’ve been pretty good at keeping logistics away from the writing process. It’s important when you’re writing to not bridle yourself with pragmatic concerns. The movie I’m about to do has got a lot of scenes and a lot of characters. And the scope of it and the world it inhabits is very, very large.”
Having just participated in 24 Hour Comics Day, I absolutely appreciate and understand the need to not let “pragmatic concerns” bog down the writing process, but that freedom can definitely lead to future What the shitballs was I thinking? moments when you have to make those words some sort of reality. But in this case, we really couldn’t ask for anyone better to probe and fondle our collective mindhole with a movie about all the absurdity of the Internet and its affect on the modern day movie business.
It’s gonna hurt so good, y’all.
Rob Payne also writes the indie comic The Unstoppable Force, co-hosts the podcast We’re Not Fanboys, and tweets on the Twitter @RobOfWar. If Jack Black truly is playing the film blogger, he (and 3/4 of the film blogging industry) expects a royalty check once the movie is a hit.