Ahna O'Reilly really knows a thing or two about working with James Franco. Not only has she known him for years (they even dated), but she also worked with him on his feature-length debut, As I Lay Dying, which comes out on video on demand today and will be available on DVD on Nov. 5. We got a chance to talk to Ahna about working on the film adaptation of the classic of the same name by William Faulkner and learned about her new literature-related project with James.
POPSUGAR: How did you get involved with As I Lay Dying?
Ahna O'Reilly: I’ve known James Franco and [producer] Vince Jolivette for years, and I knew that they wanted to make this. At one point they mentioned to me that they wanted me to be Dewey Dell, but this was two years before it actually got made. I just didn’t want to hope to get the role and have it not happen, so I just forgot about it.
Then when it came back around, and it looked like it was a real movie that was coming together, I still refused to believe it until I was actually there because it seemed too good to be true. It's such a fantastic role and to be a part of the remaking of such a classic novel that’s such an amazing piece of American literature. I just couldn’t believe that that was my good fortune. So, that’s how it came to me, really, was through them.
PS: So, I take it you're a fan of the book?
AO: I’m a fan of the book. I had read it once before, and I have to admit, I don’t think I fully grasped it — it’s a difficult read. But then when it looked like it was becoming more and more of a real thing, I reread it. I probably have read that book a total of seven times, if not more, just because I kept rereading it throughout the making of the film. It was such an amazing tool to have as an actor, not only to have a book, but to have a section that your character narrates. So, that was such a gift to have.
PS: This is a book that a lot of people get introduced to in high school and is, as you said, a big piece of American literature. Was it daunting for you guys to take on such a big book?
AO: Actually, no. I thought it would be more, and there were certainly times when we’d have these long moments in the film where we’re reciting basically an entire page dialogue — there are these long confessionals to the camera, soliloquies, when I was doing those, I felt like, "Wow I really cannot mess up my lines. I really have to get these lines down because I don’t want to mess with Faulkner."
That was the main pressure: making sure I was getting his words right. Whereas in another film, I can be like, "Oh this word or that word, its not the end of the world, its no big deal." But other than just the pressure of really getting the lines down completely and thoroughly and completely in my bones, I didn’t feel much of a pressure from the outside. It felt like we were all there because James has this deep love of Faulkner. We all got to be a part of that. It didn’t feel like it was for a greater audience, it felt like it was for each other’s passions.
PS: What was it like working with James on this film, especially since he is such a fan of Faulkner?
AO: He was incredible. He’s so cooperative, and this is one of his favorite books, so you could just feel his love and passion for it, and it was a really wonderful experience to be there as an actor and watch him get to realize this dream of his.
To see what else Ahna said about the project, just read more