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A renegade artist breaking down barriers in search of love and redemption.... an hallucinogenic ride through a prophetic masterpiece that rocked a generation.... a work of art put on trial for obscenity.... HOWL tells the unlikely story of a poem that sparked the counter-culture.

James Franco is uncanny as he channels the young Allen Ginsberg in this unconventional mash-up of poetry, politics, dreams and desire. Also featuring David Strathairn, Jon Hamm, Bob Balaban, Treat Williams, Alessandro Nivola, Mary-Louise Parker, and Jeff Daniels. Animation designed by Ginsberg collaborator Eric Drooker (Illuminated Poems). 


Festivals & Screenings

Freedom of Expression Award


"Not quite a biopic, not really a documentary and only loosely an adaptation, HOWL does something that sounds simple until you consider how rarely it occurs in films of any kind. It takes a familiar, celebrated piece of writing and makes it come alive."
- A.O.Scot, NY Times

"Moments of soaring brilliance, with an elegant performance by James Franco as Ginsberg that should redefine his career."
- Betsy Sharkey, LA Times

"A great film. Franco disappears into Ginsberg's sexy earthiness."
- Jennie Yabroff, Newsweek 

“Stimulating and at times exhilarating to watch…”
- Bruce Handy, Vanity Fair

“HOWL combines dramatization and documentary images so fluidly that one experiences what may be a new form.”
- Steven Watson, Artforum

“A frenetic charged piece of cinematic poetry.”
- Nick Haramis, Black Book

"HOWL is a marvellously entertaining film, crashing through time periods, genres, film stocks and animation with absolute confidence.... a bold, inspiring piece of work, putting experimental techniques in the service of a heartfelt, insightful and surprisingly audience-friendly work of art."
- Tom Huddleston, Time Out London 

"HOWL is a gutsy, inventive film about an important moment."
- Marshall Fine, Huffington Post 

“Damned if Franco doesn’t nail the poet’s winningly bombastic urban-intellectual glee; he’s like a young rabbi letting himself go in the New York beatnik unerground. HOWL isn’t a conventional biopic.”
- Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

"Franco plays Ginsberg with an electrified fondness. HOWL plays like poetry in motion.”
- Troy Patterson, Spin Magazine

"An exhilarating experiment that Sundance was built to nurture. Bravo!"
- Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

"After a movie you usually want to talk about the actors or the direction or the cinema-photography, but when you leave this movie what you want to do is go directly to a bookstore and buy a copy of “Howl” so that you can do some literary interpreting yourself; and then you want to go back and see the movie again (as I did) in the hope that this time you have something of your own to offer. See you there."
- Stanley Fish, NY Times 



Written for the Screen and Directed by
Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman


Produced by
Elizabeth Redleaf
Christine Kunewa Walker


Produced by
Rob Epstein
Jeffrey Friedman


Executive Producers
Gus Van Sant
Jawal Nga


Director of Photography
Edward Lachman, ASC

Production Designer
Thérèse DePrez


Jake Pushinsky


Costume Design
Kurt and Bart


Music by
Carter Burwell


Music Supervision
Hal Willner


Animation Designed by
Eric Drooker


Animation Producer           
John Hays


Brian Benson
Andrew Peterson
Mark Steele


Associate Producers
Peter Hale
Bob Rosenthal


Associate Producers
Ken Bailey
James Q. Chan
Kelly Gilpatrick


Line Producer
Lynn Appelle


Casting by
Bernie Telsey, CSA



James Franco
as Allen Ginsberg

David Strathairn
as Ralph Mcintosh

Jon Hamm
as Jake Ehrlich

Bob Balaban
as Judge Clayton Horn

Jeff Daniels
as David Kirk

Mary-Louise Parker
as Gail Potter

Alessandro Nivola
as Luther Nichols

Treat Williams
as Mark Schorer

Jon Prescott
as Neal Cassady

Todd Rotondi
as Jack Kerouac

Aaron Tveit
as Peter Orlovsky

Resources for educators:

Literary Criticism Comes to the Movies by Stanley Fish

Sample Study Guide from The Learning Network / New York Times