Most filmmakers who are not James Franco rarely attempt to adapt the works of William Faulkner, whose tendency toward stream-of-consciousness narratives and interior monologues doesn’t typically translate to the screen. Then again, Faulkner’s Sanctuary isn’t really typical Faulkner—it’s a more straightforward “potboiler” that Faulkner reportedly crafted as an experiment in actually making money, telling a lurid story about a Mississippi socialite who gets mixed up in a world of dangerous sex and other sinister goings-on among a group of perpetually drunk bootleggers and racketeers. In fact, it’s so film-ready that it was adapted right after its publication as 1933’s The Story Of Temple Drake, a movie that, even in its sanitized version, was so controversial that it contributed to the institution of the Hays Code.
As Sanctuary is Faulkner’s foray into the world of pulp fiction, it makes some sense that Pulp Fiction co-writer Roger Avary has been hired to transform it into a screenplay, as that’s sort of Avary’s thing. Or rather, it was his thing before Avary became involved in some unfortunate, alcohol-related crime himself, serving a year in prison for a drunk driving incident that killed his best friend. But Avary is out as of last year and ready to return to writing—and while we might be tempted to ease back in with subject matter that doesn’t involve so much drinking, we’re not Roger Avary. The project will be overseen by producer John Langley, whose most recent features include Brooklyn’s Finest and Leaves Of Grass, but who is still best known for creating the reality series Cops, which long ago inherited Faulkner’s mantle of capturing in haunting detail all the many tragedies of the deep South.