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James Franco brings Allen Ginsberg's 'Howl' to life

James Franco as Allen Ginsberg
James Franco as Allen Ginsberg
Courtesy of Oscilloscope Films

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Allen Ginsberg's seminal poem "Howl," is the subject of a new film that stars James Franco as the legendary beat poet.

"Howl" directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman say they chose Franco for the role partly because of how he played another real life character: James Dean.

"We looked at all of his work and the film that so impressed us in relationship to this part was what he did with the 'James Dean Story,'" said Epstein. "The fact that he did such a brilliant job of, not only personifying Dean, but really expressing all the depth of his emotional experience in that part."

Plus, Franco has a "personal connection" to the role, according to Epstein. The actor studied literature at UCLA and, later on, in graduate school.

The movie uses animation, along with Franco's voice, to bring the famous poem to life on screen. The directors spent about a year working with Franco on the role, studying Ginsberg's life, as well as his voice and mannerisms.

The film also focuses on the controversy that was stirred up by "Howl." In 1957, the publisher of "Howl", Lawrence Ferlinghetti, was charged with selling obscene material. The ensuing trial would become an important freedom of speech case.

"Howl" opens Friday, Sept. 24 in limited release.

Howl Trailer