James Franco Is Making a Movie About Zola The Stripper’s Infamous Trip to Florida

Because why give a talented storyteller an opportunity of her own when you can just co-opt it for profit?

James Franco, American treasure, is directing a movie based on the harrowing real-life experience of Aziah “Zola” Wells, a Detroit-based waitress and dancer who in late October became an Internet sensation after she tweeted the saga of a dramatic and dangerous trip to Tampa she took with a woman she met at Hooters. 

According to Zola’s account, that woman, Jessica, invited her on a road trip to Tampa where the girls would work at a club. Jessica’s boyfriend Jarrett and her roommate-pimp “Z.”, or Akporode “Rudy” Uwedjojevwe, who has since been brought up on numerous assault and trafficking charges, were along for the ride. As Zola tells it, she thought the girls were just going to Florida to dance, but quickly realized that they were both expected to turn tricks. (Jessica has denied that she performed sex acts for money but claimed Zola willingly did.) In any event, the whole ordeal was a mess; and if it was at times entertaining it was also terrifying.

Zola eventually told a more detailed story to David Kushner at Rolling Stone; Kushner also interviewed other women who had become entangled with Rudy. As far as we can tell, it looks as though that article is the exclusive source material for the movie; meaning Kushner — who described the account as “Spring Breakers meets Pulp Fiction, as told by Nicki Minaj” — will be getting the story credit and whatever fee the production pays to option it. Andrew Neel and Mike Roberts will write the screenplay based on Kushner’s article, “Zola Tells All: The Real Story Behind the Greatest Stripper Saga Ever Tweeted.”

Maybe we’re being naive, but it seems like the person who experienced the saga firsthand might be the person in possession of “the real story.” And anyone who read Zola’s tweets will agree that the girl can spin a yarn, if she occasionally takes liberties for dramatic effect. It’s bumming us out that her name is not being mentioned in any of the trade articles about the project. Zola did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but she did send out a tweet in late January (it’s since been removed, she appears to prune her account pretty regularly) that seemed to be in reference to the movie, and she was enthusiastic. And she retweeted a Wrap story about the movie on Thursday, so perhaps she is being given some kind of credit for her story after all. We’ll update when we have more information.