Downtown Traffic Snarl Might Have Something to Do With James Franco's Bar Mitzvah

What year is it? Cars parked on Elm Street Thursday morning.EXPAND
What year is it? Cars parked on Elm Street Thursday morning.
Stephen Young

Like much of Dallas, I was late to work Tuesday because of a failure to anticipate just how bad downtown Dallas traffic was going to be Monday morning. Late buses and added time navigating downtown were the rule of the day.  The traffic mess stemmed from a bunch of streets closed to allow on-location filming for 11/22/63, a James Franco-starring time travel miniseries about a Maine English teacher who goes back in time in an attempt to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. There'd been electronic signage in downtown for a couple of weeks, so the closures weren't exactly a surprise, but the combination of rush-hour traffic and no cops directing traffic around the set made for some potent gridlock. Obviously, it seemed, this all should have been happening on the weekend, when only the usual gawking mob on the Grassy Knoll would've been inconvenienced. It wasn't though, something that very well could stem from Franco's getting bar mitzvahed.

Dallas by night "11/22/63" by Stephen King

A photo posted by James Franco (@jamesfrancotv) on

Any production hoping to shut down Dallas streets or sidewalks for filming has to go through the Dallas Office of Special Events. After they sign off, the Dallas Police Department has to approve a traffic plan for the shoot. A DPD spokesman said Monday that the department did suggest that weekend filming might be more appropriate than 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. filming on a workday, but the department's request went unheeded. The city, too, asked that the shooting be done over the weekend, but that didn't work.

"In discussions with the Office of Special Events, the Production Company and City departments, several suggestions, including weekend filming, were discussed," city of Dallas spokesman Richard Hill said via email late Monday. "However, due to actor availability, this was not a viable option. Ultimately, DPD and the Street Department reviewed and approved the traffic control plan prior to issuing the final permit."

Among the actors involved in the production, Franco, at least publicly, seems the most likely culprit to have been (completely reasonably) unavailable, due to his having become a man over the weekend. 

By Wednesday morning, the issues were mostly rectified. DPD deployed additional officers to direct traffic, and road closures for Wednesday and Thursday were moved back to 9 a.m. Thursday, though, may bring additional issues, as Dallas residents have been warned that there will be live, blank gunfire downtown.


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