Those who watched far too much bad TV in the 1970s and 80s may remember Carl Franklin as a rugged African-American character player. Those who value thoughtful and solidly crafted genre films may give more weight to his second career as a filmmaker in the 1990s. Franklin first acted as student at UC-Berkely and honed his skills off-Broadway at the Public Theater before becoming a familiar face on TV. He made one film appearance in the family comedy "Five on the Black Hand Side" (1973) before landing steady work on the small screen with numerous guest shots, roles in TV movies, miniseries and busted pilots and stints as a regular on several unsuccessful series including the cop shows "Caribe" (ABC, 1975), co-starring Stacy Keach and "McClain's Law" (NBC, 1981-82), with James Arness as well as the sci-fi adventure "The Fantastic Journey" (NBC, 1977).
With his handsome yet serious features, Franklin tended to be cast as men of authority such as military officers, scientists and police detectives. He may have been most widely seen as the recurring character Captain Crane on the hit comedy adventure series "The A-Team" (NBC, 1983-87). Nonetheless, such roles soured Franklin on acting. He enrolled in the American Film Institute's directing program in L.A. in 1986. Franklin's master thesis film, "Punk" (1989), was a riveting portrait of a black boy from a broken home coping with both societal norms and his own emerging sexuality. Over the course of 30 minutes, the neophyte writer-director dealt with such issues as single female parenting, codes of masculinity and gay-bashing, all without resorting to cliches or easy answers.
"Punk" caught the eye of legendary exploitation producer Roger Corman who hired Franklin in 1989 for a brief but intense "apprenticeship" (six films in two years) in low-budget filmmaking. The inexperienced filmmaker entered features working variously (and in combination) as a director, screenwriter and/or actor in a series of genre quickies that received brief regional releases before finding their rightful homes on video store shelves. Franklin made his directorial breakthrough with the highly acclaimed crime drama "One False Move" (1992). This tough noir-ish thriller efficiently told the story of the manhunt of three small-time criminals on the lam after a botched drug deal. The film opened with a memorable and disturbing bloodbath that eschewed the glamorization of violence so prevalent in much of Hollywood's genre fare. Moreover, Franklin focused on what critic Sheila Benson described as "subtle shifts and balances in racial and sexual relationships."
Franklin followed his film success with an unexpected return to TV. He again won kudos for his sensitive direction of "Laurel Avenue" (HBO, 1993), a superior made-for-cable miniseries depicting a weekend in the lives of a working-class black family in St. Paul, Minnesota. Franklin's next feature was "Devil in a Blue Dress" (1995), a high-profile period mystery about a Negro detective in 40s L.A. He directed his own adaptation of Walter Mosley's acclaimed novel and landed a major star--Denzel Washington--an emerging acting talent--Don Cheedle--and a healthy $20 million budget. The film garnered many critical laurels, drawing a respectable audience and elevating Franklin to A-list status behind the camera, a reputation that was bolstered by his helming of "One True Thing" (1998), an effection, emotional and often tear-jerking story about an urbanite career woman (Renee Zellweger) whose life turns upside down when she returns to her small town home to help her family deal with her mother's (Meryl Streep) terminal cancer. Frankling next executive produced the ratings-impaired police drama "Partners" (1999), which focused more on the cops' home lives than their cases, and his steady rise faltered a bit when he directed the middling legal thriller "High Crimes" (2001), a so-so potboiler starring Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman. Franklin hoped to recapture some of his earlier electricity by reteaming with Denzel Washington for the thriller "Out of Time" (2003), which cast the actor as a Florida police chief caught in the midst of romantic complications who becomes the prime suspect in a double homicide.
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Special Thanks (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
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Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Feature acting debut, "Five on the Black Hand Side", credited as Carl Mikal Franklin
TV acting debut, "It Couldn't Happen to a Nicer Guy", a TV-movie comedy about a male rape victim
TV series debut, "Caribe" (ABC), an exotic cop drama with Stacy Keach
First TV special, NBC team member in "Battle of the Network Stars II"
Co-starred on "The Fantastic Journey", a short-lived NBC sci-fi series
TV miniseries debut, "Loose Change/Those Restless Years" on NBC-TV
Co-starred in the unsold Western TV-movie/pilot "The Legend of the Golden Gun" on NBC
Cast as a regular on "McClain's Law" on NBC, a cop drama vehicle for James Arness
Feature directing and screenwriting debut, "Eye of the Eagle II: Inside the Enemy"; also acted in first feature appearance in 16 years; first feature made in association with Roger Corman's Concorde Pictures (here acting as a distributor)
Debut as a writer-director, "Punk", a short film made as Franklin's masters thesis at AFI (broadcast in 1993 as a presentation of "Alive TV" on PBS)
TV miniseries directing debut, "Laurel Avenue" on HBO
Breakthrough feature directing assignment, the critically acclaimed crime drama "One False Move"
Wrote and directed an acclaimed but little seen adaptation of Walter Mosley's "Devil in a Blue Dress", starring Denzel Washington
Helmed the moving adaptation of Anna Quindlen's autobiographical novel "One True Thing", starring Renee Zellweger and Meryl Streep