As much as we all might mock James Franco for his seemingly never-ending work flow of wackiness – movies, television, dunder-headed adaptations of classic novels, soap operas, books, art installations, screaming about shit, and so on and so forth – the multi-hyphenate certainly seems to be interested in mixing things up in a big way. He also appears to have a hefty interest in classic Hollywood and offbeat stories from that era (this is, after all, a guy who directed a biopic on Sal Mineo), so why not give him a meaty role in an era-appropriate film that he can excel it, if only because he’s done it before?
Variety reports that director David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers) is now on board to direct Warner Bros.’ long-gestating biopic about Hugh Hefner, Playboy founder, raconteur, and major man about town. While Dobkin seems like a bit of a strange fit – he also directed The Change-Up – the director has recently taken a turn into the dramatic with the upcoming The Judge, and the film will be bolstered by a screenplay by Peter Morgan, who has penned such historically-set films as Rush and Frost/Nixon. A mix of high and low? Comedy and drama? How could Franco not be at the top their list?
Franco played the role of Hef in Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s Lovelace, a disappointing dramatization of the true story of Linda Lovelace and Deep Throat that was elevated by solid performances by star Amanda Seyfried and, yes, even Franco in a relatively minor role. Lovelace takes place mainly in the seventies, and when we first meet Hef, it’s around 1972 – which would make the Playboy impresario forty-six at the time. Franco was in his early thirties when he played the role (the actor is now thirty-five), but he does not appear to have been aged up in any kind of significant manner for the role.
Take a look:
Franco did indeed look younger than Hefner did during that time in his life, but looks don’t matter so much when an actor is able to capture something like character, personality, charm, and just general style. Franco may have plenty of baggage, but he can still transcend in the right role (hello, Alien), and that same thing could happen in this new Hef biopic. This new Hefner biopic will reportedly take place in the mid- to late-seventies, as Variety refers to Morgan returning to a “similar era” as his Frost/Nixon, which took place in the summer of 1977. Slap on a touch of aging makeup, thread in some gray hairs, and let’s go.
This age thing? It doesn’t really matter, because Hef always managed to look a bit young for his age (good for him). Here is what Hefner looked like in 1972 (you can also get a better look at him – in color! – through this Google search, which turns up a ton of watermarked photos):
And, again, here is what Franco looked like in the film:
And here is what Hefner looked like in 1977:
Not too bad, right?
Variety does, however, remind us that actors like Robert Downey Jr. and Hugh Jackman were considered for the part when the film was set up at Universal, but that “Warners will likely look for an actor with similar charm and wit.” Sure, sure, charm and wit – but neither of them has previously proven themselves in the part in quite the way the velvet-voiced and -suited Franco did. If nothing else, we’re just trying to keep the guy away from another Faulkner adaptation.