It’s unfortunate that each new announcement of a Chuck Palahniuk book being optioned for production has become a ritual in heart-protecting restraint, but after several dozen attempts to bring all of his novels to the big screen, it’s hard to take anything without a salt block handy. Except when James Franco is involved. Which he is. Say what you will about his talent, the guy gets shit done.
So there’s a kernel of hope for “Rant” to do what most others couldn’t do. According to Deadline, Franco is producing while Adderall Diaries director Pamela Romanowsky will write and direct. It’s highly likely that Franco will take the lead role of Buster “Rant” Casey – a figure living in a future dystopia where classism has divided the population by curfews. Casey is a “Nighttimer,” part of the oppressed class, who participates in an elaborate urban racing game where the goal is to slam your car into other cars for points (and for the transcendent feeling you get from the jarring motion). He’s also got a thing for spider bites.
It’s an excellent story that owes more than a little, for multiple reasons, to Cronenberg. Franco would be a fine choice for the main role, but my immediate unfounded concern is that the production would strip away the oral history element of the book (World War Z-style) in order to ease the translation process. More than simply a structure, the oral history and the characters it pulls out are the beating heart of the story, helping to reveal a central figure through the way that other people view him. It’s one man’s story told through the eyes of the people molding him into legend. It’s messy and contradictory in a way that wouldn’t be possible with a traditional narrative.
Naturally, the other fear is that this project will fade away like all the others. “Will we finally see…” is the most common way to start a headline about Palahniuk adaptations, and it’s a shame that only two of his books have been made into movies in 15 years. So many others have vast cinematic potential.
As for Rant, bring it on. Make it happen, Mr. Franco.