James Franco will star as a magician, a meth dealer, Hugh Hefner, and himself, in a variety of new projects.
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17 Aug 2012 - 12:17 PM  UPDATED 5 Nov 2012 - 5:30 PM

Franco goes meth-od
Let's be clear: James Franco is playing with us. The star of 127 Hours and Rise of the Planet of the Apes treats his career like an extended art project: in between the offbeat leading man roles that he's made his own (having spent several years at the turn of the century trying to play the traditional leading man in now little remembered films such as Annapolis and Tristan + Isolde) he's as likely to direct an experimental short film, play a small role in a teen flick, or play a crazed performance artist named Franco for a while on daytime American soap opera General Hospital. It's all part of a plan that Franco enjoyably carries off, and as long as he doesn't make anything as tiresome as David Gordon Green's Your Highness again that's okay.

Franco is already playing Hugh Hefner to Amanda Seyfried's infamous 1970s porn star Linda Lovelace in Lovelace, the new film from his Howl directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, as well as starring in Sam Raimi's Oz: The Great an Powerful, a prequel to The Wizard of Oz with Franco as a younger version of the land's eventual ruler, who encounters familiar witches played by Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis. He's also playing himself, as the host of a Hollywood party where the guests learn that the apocalypse has arrived, in The End of the World, a film from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg where the sizable cast – including Emma Watson, Michael Cera, Jason Segel, Rihanna, and the directors – will play presumably panicked versions of themselves.

If you're wondering how Franco will top all of that, don't concern yourselves. His next collaboration is with the king of action B-movies (and reportedly the biggest star in Russia) Jason Statham, who reliably produces two or three titles a year, in a film scripted by Sylvester Stallone. Directed by Gary Fleder (Runaway Jury, Kiss the Girls), Homefront will star Statham and a currently uncast female lead as husband and wife DEA agents who move to a rural locale to recuperate from their last case. Once they arrive however, they're pursued by a crazed meth dealer – cue James Franco! – intent on driving them out of the town. The final good guy/bad guy confrontation should be memorable.

Thor calls in the doctor
Reliable paycheck work: the fine English actor Christopher Eccleston (Jude, 28 Days Later..., the brief ninth incarnation of Doctor Who) will play the villain, Malekith the Accursed, in the superhero sequel Thor: The Dark World. Chris Hemsworth, as the deep-voiced Norse deity, and Natalie Portman return.}

Baumbach in black and white
Movies are rarely made in anything close to secrecy anymore – even Terrence Malick's productions have their rough movements and casts known. But veteran American independent filmmaker Noah Baumbach (pictured) has managed to do it. The announcement of next month's Toronto Film Festival line-up was the first indication that the director of The Squid and the Whale had a new piece ready, the black and white shot Frances Ha, which was co-written with Baumbach by its star, Greta Gerwig, the graduate of the American mumblecore movement who starred in Baumbach's Greenberg and has recently worked with Woody Allen (From Rome With Love), Whit Stillman (Damsels in Distress) and Ivan Reitman (No Strings Attached). It's probably only a matter of time until Gerwig finds herself opposite James Franco.