By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist January 12, 2012 at 12:20PM
To say that James Franco is a busy man is like saying that "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" could have used a more charismatic human lead. Franco is a screenwriter, a director, an awards host, a poet, a novelist, a soap star, a perpetual grad student, an artist, an experimental chef, a glass blower, a human statue, a viola player, a mad scientist, a tree surgeon and an astronaut, but still somehow finds time to appear in several films a year, from blockbusters like next year's "Oz The Great and Powerful" to indies like "Lovelace," in which he'll cameo as Hugh Hefner.
It's barely a week since the actor signed on to lead David Koppelman & Brian Levien's "The Game," but he's somehow found a gap in his schedule, as The Hollywood Reporter bring news that the actor is set to play legendary, controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in biopic "Mapplethorpe."
The artist was one of the best known photographers of the 1970s and 1980s, thanks to his stylized black-and-white pictures, which often featured sexually explicit material, leading him to become something of a bete noire of those trying to cut public funding of the arts, before his AIDS-related death in 1989, aged only 42. There's clearly something in the ear at the moment, as "Hugo" writer John Logan is working on an adaptation of "Just Kids," Patti Smith's memoir of her relationship with Mapplethorpe (who took the iconic cover photo for her album "Horses"), although little's been heard from that of late.
"Mapplethorpe" is, however, a different project, marking the directorial debut of Ondi Timoner, who came to fame directing Dandy Warhols/Brian Jonestown Massacre doc "DiG" and the acclaimed "We Live In Public." Timoner will also produce, alongside, curiously, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" actress Eliza Dushku, her brother Nate and Franco's producing partner Miles Levy. Timoner's been developing the project for some time, with help from Sundance Labs, but it's just received a $15,000 grant from the Tribeca Film Institute, placing it back in the headlines.
A number of other films also received the same grant; "Abigail Harm," starring Amanda Plummer, surgery horror "Bypass," the Allison Anders-produced "I Believe In Unicorns," and Ryan Koo's "Manchild," while documentaries from Iranian director Ramin Bahrani, among others, also picked up monetary awards. There's no word on when "Mapplethorpe" might get moving, but we'd expect it to be sometime after the Tribeca All Access Creative Promise Awards on April 26th, part of the Tribeca Film Festival.