Big screen to boast adaption of Brandon book

Filming for a movie based on professor John Brandon’s novel “Arkansas” is not complete.

Kelly Holm, Senior Reporter

Courtesy of John Brandon

Upon pulling up the Wikipedia page for author and Hamline creative writing professor John Brandon, one will be greeted by the following words: “John Brandon is an American novelist and clown. A young cult fiction author, heavily influenced by Flannery O’Connor. Influences FYSEM 24 every day.”

The dubious biography was the work of Brandon’s 2016 creative writing FYSEM students, whom he describes as “talented but mischievous… Internet saboteurs.” Winners of that year’s FYSEM throwdown, they received the grand prize of a dinner out on the town with limousine transportation.

Perhaps Brandon will get a limo ride of his own next year to a red carpet premiere in Hollywood, as the film adaptation of his debut novel “Arkansas” is slated for release in early 2020. Part crime thriller and part Southern Gothic, the tome tells the story of a pair of young drug runners from the titular state and their illicit hijinks.

The City of Angels has long pursued Brandon, as actor, writer and director Clark Duke first acquired the theatrical rights to the book not long after its 2008 launch. The project lingered in development hell for several years, though, and the rights had to be re-optioned multiple times. Despite this, Brandon never lost faith in Duke.

“[Duke] was determined… He’s from Arkansas and had a vision for the film,” Brandon said. “One of the reasons I stuck with [him] all those years was I had confidence in his abilities. I never tried to interfere or give too much input. Clark would discuss certain casting decisions with me, or ask me about what certain places or key props looked like in my mind, but mostly I tried to stay out of the way.”

After years in limbo, the winds finally blew at the project’s back when a certain Mr. Miley Cyrus was cast.

“Liam Hemsworth signed on to play one of the lead roles. That’s when the project started getting momentum,” Brandon said. “It seems like that’s how it works with indie movies; you have to get that first significant sign-on, and then it’s easier to attach the next person and the next.”

Vince Vaughn, John Malkovich, Vivica A. Fox and Michael Kenneth Williams also star, and rock band The Flaming Lips makes an appearance. The state of Arkansas, however, is relatively underrepresented for a movie that bears its name.

Courtesy of Goodreads
The cover of John Brandon’s novel, “Arkansas.”

“Alabama was cheaper to film in,” Brandon said. “They did film a few scenes in Arkansas — Hot Springs, I think. I’m guessing there wasn’t a way to recreate those beautiful bathhouses.”

This is a reference to Bathhouse Row, a series of Spanish Colonial Revival-style bathhouses located in Hot Springs National Park.

Filming is now complete, and “Arkansas” is currently in the post-production stages of editing. The film’s festival circuit and theatrical release is in the process of being figured out as well. Brandon is on sabbatical right now, but his current work is far from the Hollywood Walk of Fame: he’s working on his fifth novel.

Brandon would like to clear up one last misconception addressed by the Wikipedia profile.

“For the record, I have no formal training as a clown,” he said.