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We’re seated by a window in the upstairs poetry room at City Lights Books in San Francisco, where several earnest-looking college students pretend to read obscure poetry collections.

Franco speaks softly so that he doesn’t disturb them. If anything, they’d probably like the 32-year-old, who’s hiding his curls under a San Francisco Giants hat, to speak up—to project.

Ginsberg believed that to combat a repressive society, poets needed to serve as models for rigorous honesty and self-examination.

Casting Franco certainly wasn’t a stretch for Epstein and Friedman once they heard Franco read the first few lines of the landmark 1956 poem: I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, / dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, / angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night.“He blew us away,” Epstein says. It feels like a deep, nuanced understanding.”That first impression doesn’t surprise Vince Jolivette, Franco’s close friend and producing partner. And they’re both fascinated by art and who gets to decide what art is.” That’s certainly a big theme in , which centers around the obscenity trial of City Lights owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who published the poem in the fall of 1956.

He got his break less than two years later, when Judd Apatow cast him in the television series .

Franco concedes that he was often difficult on movie sets, irritating cast members with his intensity—and occasionally trying to tell directors how to do their job. I still work really hard, but for my own sanity—and everyone else’s—I’ve had to surrender the results.”Coinciding with the change in attitude was a return to academia.

“Allen was a bit vain, and I think he would have been delighted to be portrayed by James Franco….

It’s important to remember that Allen is a young man in this film, and he wasn’t a bad-looking young man.

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