PARK CITY, Utah — "Howl," a film based on Allen Ginsberg’s famous poem and the subsequent indecency trial has been one of the hot tickets at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The film’s star-studded cast including Jon Hamm (“Madmen”), David Strathairn (“LA Confidential”), and James Franco (“Milk”) as Ginsberg has made "Howl" one of the hot tickets as Sundance. Eager festival goers lined up around the theater hours before the film’s premiere on Thursday hoping to get a wait-list ticket.
Blast was at the film’s press conference on Friday where directors Josh Friedman and Rob Epstein, cast members James Franco and Jon Hamm as well as the film’s producers talked about the film as a "passion project" for all involved.
Friedman said that the poem’s importance and brilliance made the development process challenging. Originally Friedman and co-director Rob Epstein considered tackling Ginsberg’s story as a documentary but changed their minds during the development process.
"It was not doing justice to the material," Friedman said. "We had to do something that broke form the same way Allen’s poem did.”
Friedman and Epstein agreed that "Howl" would not worked without Franco and his passion for the material.
Franco said he was a fan of the beats since his teenage years and was excited to play Ginsberg. “dJames was a genuine conduit for Ginsberg’s words," Friedman said.
Franco said he has been drawn to playing historical figures because it makes him a more responsible actor. The obligation to get his performance absolutely right forces him to give his best possible performance. He added that he does not choose his roles lightly.
"I play people I love and want to celebrate," Franco said.
Jon Hamm was drawn to his role as Ginsberg’s defense attorney Jake Ehrlich because of the film’s passionate message.
"The film is a passionate defense of artistic freedom," Hamm said.
Josh Friedman said that it was the cast’s passion for the project and the belief in the central ideas of the film that make the film something special.
"We were inspired by actors willing to put themselves on the line everyday," Friedman said.
Producer Elizabeth Redleaf said it was easy to be passionate about the project because of the almost surreal nature of the story.
"To think there were real people in a real place debating whether or not a poem could be called literature," Redleaf said. "It’s absurd."
Co-director Josh Epstein said that the popularity of Ginsberg’s poem today shows that art will always win against censorship eventually.
"Art is truthful," Epstein said. "That’s what lasts."