On Wednesday, July 30, 2014, I sat down with actor writer director James Franco and actor Scott Haze who plays lead character Lester Ballard in the movie “Child of God.” The movie is based on Cormac McCarthy’s third book and true to McCarthy form, it is a dark, disturbing tale of life at its rawest. Ballard is a human abomination, a deranged man that society has forsaken. Lester’s father hung himself, and his mother ran off leaving him to fend for himself in a cabin in the woods. He is more feral beast than human.
Ballard is a murderer, rapist and necrophiliac. He also shoots stuffed animals. That scene, although tragic, was also hilarious and the levity was appreciated. Most of it is darker than dark — one of my favorite things in any movie. But the trouble Franco ran into with both the screenplay he wrote and directing the film is that it is repetitive.
I will say there’s plenty of excitement, though, in between those repetitions. Ballard, devoured by loneliness and isolation, runs around the woods with a rifle, finds a dead woman and drags her home for company and necrophilia, and he talks to himself. He also talks to his stuffed animals and to both of the cadavers he has crushes on. Strangely, this anti-hero comes across as a sympathetic character because it is clear that the horrid hand he was dealt in life made him who he is. The movie is about man’s inherent need to be connected to others, to experience companionship, love, and sex.
Haze earned an Academy Award nomination in my opinion and I’ve got fingers and toes crossed that he gets one. His portrayal of Ballard is some of the best acting you will ever see. Haze threw himself into the role and became Ballard — sans the violence and necrophilia.
To get into the right headspace Haze left L.A. and his iPhone and went to Tennessee for three months. He lived in a cabin in the woods for two months and a cave for a month. During our interview Haze said, “The reason I went to Tennessee is I knew I couldn’t prepare for this role in Los Angeles. I had to do a lot of work. I had to lose the muscle, grow hair everywhere. When I was isolated in Tennessee I really got to see what it’s like to have those times when you’re talking to yourself, which added to the performance, which wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t isolated myself for that period of time. Just the mumbling, the things that go through somebody’s head when they spend too much time alone.”
The New York City premiere of “Child of God” was Wednesday night at the Tribeca Grand Hotel. Chatting with him earlier, Franco, 36, had mussed hair and kept his black leather jacket on. At the red carpet the star looked crisp in a black checked suit with chestnut brown shoes, and a Copenhagen-blue silk tie against a white shirt. He told the crowd, “I’m proud to be part of this movie by my favorite living writer.”
Haze arrived with actress Elissa Shay. Haze wore a dark blue suit, matching tie, white shirt and black shoes. Shay wore a red silk halterneck gown with thigh-high slits.
Lana Del Rey, 29, looked ravishing in a white brocade high-waisted pencil skirt, matching cropped top with a white underlay that covered her middle. She wore strappy gold sandal flats and her signature winged eyeliner.
“Child of God” opened Fri., August 1, 2014. Crime drama. Rated R. 104 min.
Watch the trailer
Watch James Franco talk about necrophilia