Five have the beat for Ginsberg biopic

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David Strathairn, Alan Alda, Jeff Daniels, Mary-Louise Parker and Paul Rudd are attached to join James Franco as Allen Ginsberg in the beatnik biopic "Howl."

Telling Pictures documentarians Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman will make their narrative writing, producing and directing debut with the 1950s-era tale, focusing on the obscenity trial launched to censor Ginsberg's groundbreaking book-length poem. The pair were approached by the Allen Ginsberg Trust to make a film commemorating the 50th anniversary of "Howl."

Among the real-life characters featured in the film are prosecuting attorney Ralph McIntosh (Strathairn), Judge Clayton Horn (Alda), prosecution witness Professor David Kirk (Daniels), radio personality and prosecution witness Gail Potter (Parker) and literary critic and defense witness Luther Nichols (Rudd).

Gus Van Sant is executive producing the project. WMA and Cinetic Media are onboard to assemble financing and handle sales.

"Fifty years later, Ginsberg's vision is as relevant as the year he wrote it," Friedman said. "It resonates with issues of free speech, government censorship, militaristic empire building, fear-mongering, sexual conformity and the co-opting of religion."

Graphic novelist and Ginsberg collaborator Eric Drooker will create an animated reimagining of "Howl" (in segments Epstein describes as "a Beat Fantasia") and Carter Burwell will write the original score.

Epstein and Friedman produced and directed "Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt," and Epstein directed "The Times of Harvey Milk," both Oscar-winning docus. Van Sant's Milk biopic features Franco and bows in November.

Franco is repped by Endeavor and James/Levy Management. Strathairn, Alda and Daniels are repped by ICM. Parker is repped by WMA. Rudd is repped by UTA and Brillstein Entertainment Partners. Epstein and Friedman are repped by Sloss Eckhouse Brennan Law. (partialdiff)
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