James Franco's portrayal of gay beat generation poet Allen Ginsberg in Howl opens in New York and San Francisco on Friday.

Stars of the film – Franco, Aaoron Tveit and Jon Prescott – appeared at Wednesday's New York premiere at the IFC Center. The men behind the film, directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, were also on hand.

Howl takes a look at Ginsberg's most famous poem, Howl, published in 1955 by City Lights, a San Francisco-based bookstore. The poem became the subject of a landmark obscenity trial that tested the boundaries of the First Amendment.

You also get to see a bit of Ginsberg's personal life in the movie, including his love life. Ginsberg's lover, the poet Peter Orlovsky, is played by Tveit in the movie. Prescott plays the straight but not narrow poet Neal Cassidy.

Mad Man star Jon Hamm plays defense attorney Jake Ehrlich and Mary-Louise Parker pops in for a quick cameo.

Franco's willingness to play gay onscreen – he played Harvey Milk's lover, Scott Smith, in Milk – has stirred up rumors about the actor's sexuality. But in a recent cover story with gay glossy The Advocate, Franco denied the claim.

“Everyone thinks I'm a stoner, and some people think I'm gay because I've played gay roles,” the 32-year-old openly straight actor said. “That's what people think, but it's not true. I don't smoke pot. I'm not gay.”

Howl opens nationwide in October.