BC English professor Paul Mariani had no idea who James Franco was when he was told the actor wanted to make a biopic of poet Hart Crane that would be based on Mariani's 1999 book, "The Broken Tower: The Life of Hart Crane." "He's 32 and I'm 71," said Mariani, referring to the actor. But once he realized Franco was serious about directing and starring in a film about the troubled writer, Mariani familiarized himself with the actor's work and was pleasantly surprised with his range. Sure, Franco starred in the stoner comedy "Pineapple Express," but he also portrayed Allen Ginsberg in "Howl" and received an Oscar nomination for his role in "127 Hours," which he prepared for by reading Proust. Said Mariani: "The guy is really the real thing." The two wound up developing a friendship that led to "The Broken Tower," a soon-to-be-released film that Franco is screening at BC's Robsham Theater Arts Center Friday. Mariani helped Franco with his research by taking the actor on a tour of Crane's New York neighborhood and answering questions about the poetry scene of the 1920s. "Sometimes I wouldn't hear from him for weeks. Then I'd get bombarded with 20 emails." Mariani also pitched in by joining the cast. The movie, which co-stars Michael Shannon, features Mariani as photographer Alfred Stieglitz.
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