EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

June 29, 2013

Star actor backs out of movie based on local author's book

Andre Dubus III still hopeful film of "The Garden of Last Days" will be made

Hollywood star James Franco has backed out of directing and starring in a movie based on a book by local writer Andre Dubus III.

Franco was slated to start working this summer on a movie based on the best-selling novel “The Garden of Last Days’’ by Dubus, who grew up in Haverhill and now lives in Newbury.

But yesterday, it was announced that Franco was pulling out of the project.

Dubus said Franco’s decision had to do with “artistic differences.’’ Dubus said he is hopeful the company looking to make the movie will find a replacement for Franco, allowing the film to eventually happen.

“These things happen when you’re trying to make a feature film,’’ Dubus said. “But I hold out hope that the producer, Gerard Butler, and his partners will still get this made. The script by Hanna Weg is really strong, which is what essentially gives me faith this movie will make it to the big screen.’’

Franco has starred in several major motion pictures, most recently as the title character in “Oz the Great and Powerful,” with Michelle Williams and Mila Kunis.

“The Garden of Last Days’’ was to be the second of Dubus’ books to be made into a movie. In 2003, Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly starred in the movie version of Dubus’ best-selling novel “House of Sand and Fog.’’

There has also been talk in literary and Hollywood circles that his best-selling memoir “Townie’’ — the story of him growing up on the tough streets of Haverhill — will also be made into a movie.

“The Garden of Last Days’’ is based on the terrorist events of Sept. 11, 2001. In it, Dubus tells the tale of a man who plans to hijack a plane. Dubus spins in the hijacker’s personal relationships, including one with an exotic dancer, before the terrorist plot unfolds.

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