Hitting the big time Local actors cast in James Franco's 'As I Lay Dying'

By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Kenny Cook and Casey Dillard have co-starred in plenty of movies together, but this one is a little different.
Cook and Dillard, from Baldwyn and Tupelo, respectively, were just cast in actor/director James Franco’s film adaptation of William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying.” Dillard will play a young Addie Bundren, and Cook will appear as a hardware store owner.
“I thought I’d done pretty well,” Dillard said of her audition and callbacks. The auditions took place in Canton and Jackson earlier this month. Franco was there at the callbacks to hand-pick the rest of his cast.
“I thought I did a good performance for an actor I really admire,” she said.
Cook wasn’t as sure. “I thought I’d blown it,” he said.
Then the actors got a call from their agent, Angie Moncrief at Action Talent Agency, with the good news.
“It was just fantastic,” Dillard said about auditioning in front of Franco.
“And nervewracking,” Cook added.
Several other Mississippians from across the state were cast in the film as well, Cook said.
“As I Lay Dying” will be shot in Canton and Jackson later this fall. The main cast of “As I Lay Dying” includes Danny McBride, of “Eastbound amp& Down” fame; “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” star Tim Blake Nelson; Jim Parrack, who stars as Hoyt in HBO’s “True Blood”; Ahna O’Reilly, best known from films like “The Help” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”; and “Prometheus” and “Across the Universe” actor Logan Marshall-Green.
Oscar-nominated actor Franco is best known for starring in films like “127 Hours,” “Pineapple Express” and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy.
Many film writers have described Franco’s take on “As I Lay Dying” – which features more than 10 different narrators and tells the story of a family’s quest to have their mother’s body buried in the fictional town of Jefferson – as his “passion project.”
As for Dillard and Cook, they hope the film will give them national exposure, as well as recognition for the work done by Mississippi filmmakers.
Dillard, a member of the comedy troupe West of Shake Rag, and Cook have starred together in many local short and feature-length films, like Glenn Payne’s “A Zombie Movie,” “The Fall of Henry” and “Zion,” and Michael Williams’ “Illumination.”
“This has the potential to bring to light some of the local stuff we’ve been doing,” she said. “We’re poised to see good things happen.”
The pair hope to get the chance to work closely with Franco. Neither have a script yet but are reading the novel.
“I want to observe the process a little more. He seemed to handle things like a local filmmaker, finding his own funding and things like that. I’m excited to see how he directs,” Dillard said.
“It’s always a learning experience, because everyone does things differently,” Cook said. “It’s always good to be a part of something that people are talking about.”
“We’re also looking forward to the fame and fortune, obviously,” Dillard said, laughing.
sheena. barnett@journalinc.com