How To HOWL Like Allen Ginsberg

     September 10, 2008

Written by Nicole Pedersen

Documentary film group Telling Pictures is producing a feature film based on one of the defining pieces of beat poetry – Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl.” First published in 1957, “Howl” went on to become one of the best-known, most oft-quoted poems of the past century – and serves as both inspiration to and bane of college lit students to this day.

A Ginsberg biopic was first conceived by the trust that oversees the Ginsberg estate. Wanting to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Howl,” the trust approached filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, documentary specialists and co-founders of Telling Pictures. While both Epstein and Friedman are Oscar-winners (for “Common Threads: Stories From the Quilt” and “The Times of Harvey Milk”), they are also well-known (at least in my house) for directing/producing both “The Celluloid Closet” and the ground-breaking 1970’s doc “Word Is Out.”

“Howl” will mark the first time either filmmaker has tackled a scripted feature – add to that the fact that they are also writing AND producing AND shepherding the legacy of Allen Ginsberg, the Beat Poets and “Howl” for future generations and these guys have a tall order in front of them… no pressure though.

Luckily the allure of “Howl” has attracted some big names to the project. James Franco has already signed to play Ginsberg and he will be joined by Alan Alda, Paul Rudd, Mary-Louise Parker, Jeff Daniels and David Strathairn.

While the film “Howl” is described as a Ginsberg biopic, it will focus particularly on the 1957 obscenity trial that resulted from the poem’s publication. The film will also feature an animated version of the thing itself – or parts of it, I’m assuming. That sucker is LONG.

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