According to the Hollywood Reporter, Franco’s film will be based on the Rolling Stone article Zola Tells All: The Real Story Behind the Greatest Stripper Saga Ever Tweeted, which was published in November. The piece related the story of stripper Aziah “Zola” Wells’ 148-tweet splurge, described as “like Spring Breakers meets Pulp Fiction, as told by Nicki Minaj”, in which she claimed she narrowly avoiding being tricked into prostitution by a fellow stripper and her violent Nigerian pimp.
According to David Kushner’s Rolling Stone article, Wells was working as a stripper at a Detroit Hooters restaurant when she met 21-year-old Jessica Rae Swiatkowski, who later invited her on a road trip to Florida. Along for the ride was Swiatkowski’s boyfriend Jarrett Scott, and a Nigerian man named Akporode “Rudy” Uwedjojevwe, referred to in Wells’s tweets as “Z”.
After stripping at a succession of rundown Florida bars, Uwedjojevwe allegedly placed adverts for both women on the prostitution site Backpage. Wells claims she refused to participate, but stayed on to provide “security” for Swiatkowski as a series of “johns” visited. She also admits putting a further advert online for Swiatkowski, via which a higher premium was charged.
Wells’s Twitter rant, which later went viral under the hashtag #thestory, also recounts an episode in which a rival pimp supposedly attempted to kidnap Swiatkowski. He is said to have attempted to lure her to a hotel room with the offer of a $5,000 sex session, later offering Uwedjojevwe $20,000 to “buy” the young woman. Other participants in the road trip have said Wells added dramatic embellishment to real events.
Uwedjojevwe was charged with sexual assault, sex trafficking, battery and attempted pimping in November after he and Swiatkowski allegedly tried to coerce two other young women, Breeonna Pellow and her best friend, Jessica Forgie, into prostitution in Reno, Nevada. Rolling Stone reported in November that he was in custody in Reno. The Washington Post reported that Uwedjojevwe was due to appear in court last month.
Franco’s film, the script for which is being written by Andrew Neel and Mike Roberts, presents a quandary for the actor-turned-film-maker. Wells’s Twitter tale, containing what she admitted to Rolling Stone are some sensationalised fictional embellishments, has attracted praise from such notable figures as the acclaimed African American film-maker Ava DuVernay and the singer Missy Elliot, resulting in the former stripper being hailed as the “Queen of Hoeism” by fans. Wells, who has more than 95,000 followers on Twitter, has revelled in her new-found fame and is said to be planning “Hoeism” merchandise. But beneath the extravagant saga of sordid adventure lies a story of vulnerable young women and alleged sex trafficking.
There are so far no casting details for the untitled project, which will follow Franco’s films In Dubious Battle, The Sound and the Fury and the upcoming The Disaster Artist into cinemas. The actor also recently finished shooting his role in King Cobra, about the notorious 2007 murder of the porn film producer Bryan Kocis.
This article was written by Ben Child, for theguardian.com on Friday 5th February 2016 13.38 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010