James Franco Hoping To Direct And Star In 'American Tabloid' Adaptation

James Franco certainly sets his sights on difficult novels to adapt. His first two announced projects were Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian and William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying.

Neither of those is exactly an easy task. And while As I Lay Dying is moving forward, Blood Meridian never went anywhere. But that hasn't stopped Franco from trying again with another big novel. Now he says he's setting up a deal to make a film based on James Ellroy's American Tabloid, the first novel in Ellroy's Underworld USA trilogy, which is his fictionalized, violent and profane version of the middle twentieth century.

MTV spoke to Franco here at Sundance, where the actor is promoting two films, kink and Interior. Leather Bar. In the interview, Franco announced that he's tackling the novel:

We're going to do 'American Tabloid' by James Ellroy... [But] it's not all put together yet. It's still early.

The novel follows three men — strongarm muscle Pete Bondurant, FBI flyboy Kemper Boyd, and accountant Ward Littell — as they're drawn into a web of violent maneuvering between the FBI, CIA, the mob, the Teamsters, and Howard Hughes, all wrapping up in Dallas on the fateful day of President John F. Kennedy's assassination. The novel is a wild fusion of history and conspiracy theory, and Ellroy pulls off quite a feat in synthesizing connections between the two, and in dramatizing real personalities such as J. Edgar Hoover.

Presumably Franco would play Kemper Boyd, as Pete Bondurant is a huge dude, and Ward Littell is more of a Paul Giamatti type. I suppose Franco could also take a smaller role and play one of the Kennedy brothers. But it sounds like this one has a ways to go before it is set, regardless.

This isn't the first of the Underworld USA novels to be targeted for a film adaptation. Last year we heard that VS Entertainment had optioned the third novel, Blood's a Rover, for development. We don't know the status of that, or if there's any chance Franco's own efforts might be related.