Project Is Payoff To Franco's 'General Hospital' Role

James Franco's had a pretty good 2010, but his 2011 is likely to be even better. The polymath will kick things off by not only co-hosting the Academy Awards with Anne Hathaway, but also with a near certain-nomination at the awards for his stunning performance in Danny Boyle's "127 Hours." April will then see him topline the fantasy comedy "Your Highness," and the summer will see him take on his first full-flung blockbuster lead in 20th Century Fox's "Rise of the Apes."

But it looks like the actor's somehow found the time to squeeze in an extra film, and one that until now, we'd been unaware of. Actor Alan Cumming, currently killing it on the better-than-you'd-think TV show "The Good Wife," spoke to the Hollywood Reporter at the premiere for Julie Taymor's "The Tempest," in which the actor also appears, and revealed that he's set to film a small role in "Maladies," a new project toplined by Franco.

Cumming related: ""Maladies" is really fascinating, directed by this guy Carter who is the artist that James Franco has been collaborating with. I'm just doing a little part... and just for Christmas." The trade also reveals that Franco and Cumming will be joined by Claire Danes and Catherine Keener in the project, and that it 'centers on a successful actor who retires at a young age due to what is believed to be a mental illness.'

This is certainly the first we remember reading of the project, but a little digging reveals that it's not an entirely new endeavor -- at a panel at the Palm Springs Shorts Fest that Anne Thompson was present at back in June, Franco revealed that his brief stint this year on soap "General Hospital" came about because he was developing a project, "Maladies," with the enigmatic Carter (and yes, that appears to be his full name), which derived from a short, "Erased James Franco," in which the actor would play a soap opera star.

Back then, Keener was already linked to the project, along with Julianne Moore and Kathy Bates, although it's unclear if the latter two are still involved. It seems likely that Franco is playing a version of himself, but as the clip from "Erased James Franco" below might suggest, we wouldn't expect this to be any kind of traditional narrative and, indeed, it may not find much of an audience outside film festivals. But we're glad that a talent as unpredictable as Franco is around, and we're interested to see how "Maladies" turns out, whenever it rears his head. Franco, meanwhile, is set to film Noah Baumbach's "While We're Young" next year, and may be directing an adaptation of "The Broken Tower" any day now too.