At first I thought the idea of casting James Franco as Allen Ginsberg in a film about his obscenity trial for Howl was kind of nuts – after all, the image we have of Ginsberg tends to be chubby, bald and bearded. But a quick look through the Googles* shows that the Beat era Ginsberg, while not quite Franco-esque, looks a lot less like David Cross (who played him wonderfully in I’m Not There). Still, I’d hire Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords. If we’re fantasy casting Beat poets, that is.

Franco’s going to be surrounded by a pretty terrific cast in this film with the same name as his epic and groundbreaking poem: David Strathairn as prosecuting attorney Ralph McIntosh, Alan Alda as Judge Clayton Horn, Jeff Daniels as prosecution witness Professor David Kirk, Mary Louise Parker as radio personality and prosecution witness Gail Potter and Paul Rudd as literary critic and defense witness Luther Nichols.

Possible dialogue scene:

Rudd as Nichols: Do you know how I know you’re gay?

Franco as Ginsberg: Because I write about it?

Howl started life when the Allen Ginsberg Trust approached Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, directors of the documentary The Celluloid Closet, to make a film honoring the poem’s fiftieth birthday. This will be their first narrative feature.

So if the movie is about the trail surrounding Ginsberg’s obscenity charges, what about the poem itself? In a cool move, the filmmakers have hired Eric Drooker (who has illustrated Ginsberg poems before. He also designed the cover of Faith No More’s King For a Day… Fool For a Lifetime and got some acclaim with his wordless graphic novel FLOOD! A Novel In Pictures) to create an animated interpretation of the poem.

For my money this is the kind of movie news people should be getting excited about, not the most insane rumors of who will play Captain America.

*using the same method John McCain used to vet Sarah Palin!