The South on Screen
2012 is going to be a big year for the South, both at the movies and on television.
by Kati-Jane Hammet
With the national popularity of films like The Help and television shows Treme and True Blood, it’s not surprising that Hollywood is going Southern in 2012. Boasting stories of war and competition, alternate history and adaptation of some of the greatest works of Southern literature, 2012 looks to be a banner year for the South on screen.
Starting with every Southerner’s favorite blonde, Dolly Parton, who’s starring in Joyful Noise opening today, intern Kati-Jane Hammet has compiled a list of the Southern-themed movies and television shows coming out or in the works this year. So, set up your film-going calendar for January through December, which concludes with a huge Southern literary blockbuster on Christmas Day. Keep an eye out for the green light burning at the end of the dock.
In theaters January 13
Starring Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton
In Pacashau, Georgia, the Divinity Church Choir prepares for the National Joyful Noise Competition. Queen Latifah plays the part of the traditional choir director, while Dolly Parton wants to shake things up. The fictional small town of Pacashau is portrayed by Olde Town Conyers, according to the Rockdale News. This feel-good, spiritual singing competition is bound to have some self-referentially Southern moments and, if nothing else, may be worth watching just to hear Latifah and Parton sing together.
In theaters January 20
Starring Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr.
The Tuskegee airmen made history as the first black unit of pilots in the U.S. military, hailing from Tuskegee, Alabama. See George Lucas’s high-flying, action-packed telling of their story and WWII combat missions in Sicily and Italy. The airmen’s nickname “red tails” stems from the paint that they applied to the tails of their planes.
Extra scoop: In celebration of the movie release, the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site and Museum at Moton Field is offering an extended schedule of tours January 20-22.
In theaters February 24
Starring Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston
When a husband (Paul Rudd) loses his job just after he and his wife (Jennifer Aniston) have purchased an apartment in New York City, they decide to move to Georgia. On the way, they end up sidelined at a hotel, which turns out to be a hippie commune. From the same director as Role Models, this movie was filmed in the Atlanta area, in addition to Clarksville, Georgia, and sightings of Aniston and Rudd were all the buzz last fall.
Extra scoop: Aniston met Justin Theroux, her new beau and son of The Mosquito Coast author Paul Theroux, on the Wanderlust set.
In theaters March 9
Starring Willem Dafoe and Taylor Kitsch
A Virginia Civil War veteran, who served as captain for the Confederacy, finds himself transported to Mars, where he becomes a prisoner of 12-foot-tall barbarians. He escapes and encounters a Martian princess who needs saving along with the rest of the inhabitants of the planet. Based on the novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, who created Tarzan, and being produced by Disney, John Carter promises to bring a touch of the antebellum South to outer space.
The Lucky One
In theaters April 20
Starring Zac Efron and Blythe Danner
Based on Nicholas Sparks’ 2008 novel, this film features a Marine (Zac Efron) searching for a woman he believes kept him going through his three tours of duty in Iraq. He sets out to Hampton, North Carolina, to try and find her. Sparks lives in North Carolina, and according to the “Nicholas’ North Carolina” map on his website, Hampton was an idyllic mountain location for this book because of its near-perfect climate and small-town community.
In theaters April 27
Starring John Cusack
John Cusack plays Edgar Allan Poe during the last days of his life, pursuing a serial killer whose murders mirror scenes from the author’s work. Poe was raised in Virginia and died in Baltimore, where the film is set.
Extra scoop: A 1963 B-movie horror version of The Raven stars Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Boris Karloff, with a young Jack Nicholson supporting.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
In theaters June 22
Starring Benjamin Walker and Dominic Cooper
Chronicling the vampire-hunting ways of our 16th president, this film is based on the novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, also responsible for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. When a retelling of history is set during the Civil War, filmed in Louisiana, and tells the tale of slave-holding vampires, you can bet it will be of interest to Southerners of all stripes.
In theaters August 10
Starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis
Two South Carolina politicians, played by Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, clash as they both attempt to reach the House of Representatives. With a supporting cast that includes Dylan McDermott, John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd and Jason Sudeikis and a release date in an election year, this movie will either be hilarious or filled with flat Southern caricature. We’ll hope for the former but would feel a little better if Stephen Colbert were involved. (Image courtesy of nolamovies.com, which operates New Orleans Movie Tours.)
Extra scoop: Dog Fight was filmed in New Orleans and Hammond, Louisiana.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green
In theaters August 15
Starring Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton
When a couple having trouble conceiving (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) bury a box of wishes in their back yard, young Timothy Green sprouts. Set in Stanleyville and filmed in various locations in Georgia, as well as at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, this Disney movie looks to be a heartwarming story about a family with a very literal connection to the land.
The Wettest County in the World
In theaters August 31
Starring Gary Oldman and Shia LaBeouf
Based on the 2008 book by Matt Bondurant and set in Franklin County, Virginia, during the 1930s, this film tells the story of bootleggers in conflict with corrupt authorities. Guy Pearce and Jessica Chastain, who blew us all away as Celia Foote in The Help, also star.
Extra scoop: Bondurant is the grandson of one of the main characters in his book, which focuses on the historical events of the Great Franklin County Moonshine Conspiracy in the 1930s. And it was author Sherwood Anderson who coined the phrase “the wettest county in the world” while he was there.
The Great Gatsby
In theaters December 25
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan
Based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, who married Montgomery belle and quintessential flapper Zelda Sayre, this newest adaptation of Gatsby is directed by Baz Luhrmann (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge). Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jay Gatsby and Carey Mulligan, who was nominated for an Oscar for An Education last year, is Daisy. We know Gatsby fans are partial to the 1974 Robert Redford version of the film, but we’re excited about seeing the novel on film again, especially at the hands of Luhrmann.
Extra scoop: F. Scott and Zelda’s former home in Montgomery, Alabama, is open to the public as a museum, displaying originals of Zelda’s paintings and first editions of the couple’s books.
COMING TO TELEVISION …
Starring Josh Lucas and Molly Parker
Based on John Grisham’s best-selling novel and the feature film that followed, this new television show on NBC continues attorney Mitchell McDeere’s story, 10 years after he brought down the Memphis law firm that served as a front for the Chicago mob. The pilot episode ran January 8, and the show continues Thursdays at 10/9 central.
It was announced in November that David Milch, creator of NYPD Blue and Deadwood, made a deal with HBO and Faulkner’s literary estate to get permission to adapt any of the Mississippi author’s 19 novels or 125 short stories for films and television series. According to The New York Times, Milch got his literary start as an undergraduate at Yale University. He’s worked with Robert Penn Warren (who shared a biographer with Faulkner) and contributed fiction and criticism to publications like “The Southern Review.” With credentials like those, maybe his plans for Faulkner’s work won’t disappoint.
Extra scoop: A film version of The Sound and the Fury starring Yul Brynner was made in 1959 but bore little resemblance to the book. Read on to find out how James Franco also plans to adapt Faulkner for the screen.
Karen Russell’s hit book Swamplandia, featured on our Summer Reading List last year, will be premiering on HBO, according to The Huffington Post. The book features a family of alligator wrestlers struggling to keep their Florida tourist attraction afloat. Scott Rudin (No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood) is set to adapt the story into a half-hour comedy.
Florida author Carl Hiaasen’s 2004 book is another HBO adaptation in the works, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Known for his column in The Miami Herald, Hiaasen writes about his home state’s environmental issues, and Skinny Dip deals with the illegal dumping of fertilizer into the Everglades and a woman seeking revenge on her husband. Hiaasen’s novels are hilarious for their outrageous characters and beautiful for their picturesque Florida locations, so we’ll be looking forward to HBO’s portrayal on screen. The author’s website reports Michael Keaton as executive producer.
Renaissance man James Franco is scratching both his literary and film itch, and it’s been reported he’s in talks to write and direct a big-screen version of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying this summer. If that’s not enough, he’s also working to present Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian the following year.
For more information on what movies are filming where, visit On Location Vacations. To learn more about the South’s literary history and related sites, download our Southern Literary Trail App. (See brown box on right for download instructions.) For more Southern movie coverage, see our “Southern Movie Primer.”