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James Franco Says He'll Direct 'As I Lay Dying' This Summer; Joaquin Phoenix, Paul Dano & More Cast

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist January 25, 2011 at 9:18AM

It looks like one of the many, many big projects James Franco has dipped his toes in the water for is coming closer to fruition. Speaking with MTV on the slopes of the Sundance Film Festival, James Franco went ahead and dropped some truth bombs about one major picture he says he will direct this summer.
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It looks like one of the many, many big projects James Franco has dipped his toes in the water for is coming closer to fruition. Speaking with MTV on the slopes of the Sundance Film Festival, James Franco went ahead and dropped some truth bombs about one major picture he says he will direct this summer.

"This summer I'm going to direct a movie based on William Faulkner's novel 'As I Lay Dying,'" Franco told MTV. And he didn't stop there. The actor reveals that on New Year's Day while everyone else was recovering from wicked hangovers, he was busy test-shooting the entire 160-page script for the film (which he admits is probably too long). "I shoot a test of the whole movie before I make a movie. So we just shot a test." And if that still isn't enough news for you, Franco went ahead and revealed who will likely appear in the cast, and if it all holds, it's pretty damn stellar.

Michael Shannon (who he calls his "favorite actor," who he's worked with twice already, directing him in "Herbert White" and "The Broken Tower"), Paul Dano, Richard Jenkins and Joaquin Phoenix were all named as part of the potential cast. Good comeback vehicle choice, Joaquin. No word yet on what their roles will be.

For those of you a few years out of your last English class, the story follows the Bundren family as they take the matriarch to the town where she wants to be buried. The challenge of the material is that it utilizes multiple points of view within the narrative to weave the tale, but it appears that Franco, who is also writing the film, has cracked the material. He recently said, “I don’t believe it’ll feel the same if you divide it as rigidly as the book, like titles that say ‘Cash’ and then you’re with Cash. You can slip into the characters’ heads and give them their inner voice for a while, but it has to be more fluid because movies just work differently than books. Movies, in some ways because they deal in images, are more concrete. I want to be loyal to the book — my approach is to always be loyal in a lot of ways — but in order to be loyal I will have to change some things for the movie.”

So for you all you kids in junior high right now, dreading having to read Faulkner, there may be a movie version you can watch instead if your Kindle or iPad or whatever it is you guys use these days is busted. You can check out Franco spilling the details below. And just a reminder that the cast is not locked, but as the summer draws near, more official word on this very exciting project should be coming. But for now, Academy Award nominee Franco is preparing to fill out a tuxedo and host the Oscars in about a month.

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This article is related to: Films, Actors, As I Lay Dying, James Franco , Michael Shannon, Paul Dano, Richard Jenkins, Joaquin Phoenix