Franklin Director Tim Van Patten on Filming Apple TV+ Series in Europe

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Fans lined up in the rain recently at the Linwood Dunn Theatre in Hollywood eager to screen “Franklin,” the new Apple TV+ limited series about Benjamin Franklin’s trip to France in 1776 to try and convince the king to fund America’s fight for independence.

Based on Stacy Schiff’s book, “A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America,” the show also spotlights the relationship between Franklin (Michael Douglas) and his grandson Temple (Noah Jupe) Temple, who accompanies his grandfather to France.

Director Tim Van Patten, who steered the ship for all eight episodes, explained during a Q&A following the screening that shooting a period piece in Europe was no easy task, “It was such a beautiful experience, but it was physically daunting.”  Carriages were brought in, nearly 500 background actors in full hair, makeup and costume were utilized every day for seven weeks and somehow “everyday was like magic,” he said.

Noah Jupe talked about how his own teen life in Europe echoed Temple’s. “We can’t talk about it much, but basically I was seventeen in Paris,” Jupe cracked.

And what about Jupe’s experience working alongside the legendary Michael Douglas? “He just really brings passion and persistence to his work, jokes and will remember people’s names…and it’s crazy because remembering names is a simple thing, but people just don’t do it.”. 

Patten confirmed, “He was never more than 50 feet away from the lens. Every time we introduced a new cast member into a scene, at the end of the day, Michael would go, ‘Are there any of these actors that suck? Every single person that stands in front of me…one is better than the next.’ The day players, everybody…he was blown away.”

Audiences have seen Douglas for more than 50 years inhabit every conceivable character on the big and small screens.  So, what made him want to take on Benjamin Franklin? “He was just an extraordinary guy, a great writer, publisher, printer, and voracious reader who had an extraordinary career at 70 years old. In 1776, I can’t imagine what that would look like in today’s age group, but certainly older than Joe Biden…a lot older than Joe Biden,” joked Douglas.  “But I’m at the age now where I have an absolute rule. That rule is I don’t work with d–kheads.  Life is too short, man.”

In a rare first for American television, the dialogue is mostly in French with English subtitles, “We fought for every sentence…every scene,” Van Patten said. 

Douglas added, “I just remember them [the French] being so excited that they were getting a show that was American and French.  One of the joys of acting is just this international language that bring you closer together.”

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