James Franco to Play Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in Tribeca-Backed Project

Franco's Schooling Pays Off
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James Franco's latest gig, as narrator of the new documentary "Eames: The Architect and the Painter" (out Nov. 18), about superstar midcentury design couple Charles and Ray Eames, didn't come through typical Hollywood channels.

Tribeca All Access program backs 11 works-in-progress, including documentaries about Detroit firefighters and Pakistani teens.

James Franco is attached to star in a dramatic feature about the controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, which has been selected as one of the projects to receive grants through the Tribeca Film Institute’s 9th annual Tribeca All Access Program.

Mapplethorpe, in which Franco would play the artist who defied censors and died of AIDS in 1989, is to be the narrative film debut of Ondi Timoner, best known for directing such documentaries as 2009’s We Live in Public. Timoner will also produce the project with Nate Dushku, Miles Levy and Eliza Dushku.

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Under the TAA program, ten projects were selected from among 690 submissions. They will each receive an initial $15,000 grant as well as ongoing support to connect the filmmakers involved with industry professionals. One additional project was selected to participate in the 2012 program through TAA’s fiive-year partnership with the Canadian Film Centre.

TAA will present the 11 projects—six narratives and five documentaries—at a five-day career-development program from April 22-26, during the 11th annual Tribeca Film Festival. At the the Tribeca All Access Creative Promise Awards on April 26, two projects, one docu and one feature, will each receive an additional $10,000 grant.

In addition to Mapplethorpe, the five narrative works-in-progress chosen are: Abigail Harm, directed by Lee Isaac Chung, written and produced by Samuel Gray Anderson, and starring Amanda Plummer as a woman who is granted a wish by a heavenly visitor in a story inspired by the Korean folktale The Woodcutter and the Nymph; Bypass, written and directed by Liliana Greenfield-Sanders, produced by Amy Basil and Rowen Riley, a modern-day Frankenstein story about a young woman who undergoes radical gastric and plastic surgeries; I Believe in Unicorns, written and directed by Leah Meyerhoff, executive produced by Allison Anders, produced by Heather Rae and Mark G. Mathis and co-produced by Kwesi Collisson, about a teenage girl who runs away with an older boy; and Manchild, written and directed by Ryan Koo, about a talented, thirteen-year-old basketball player.

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The five documentary projects are: Untitled Ramin Bahrani Gold Documentary, directed and produced by Ramin Bahrani, produced by Jason Orans, exploring the centuries-old obsession with gold; Burn (One Year on the Frontlines of the Battle to Save Detroit), directed and produced by Brenna Sanchez and Tom Putnam, which looks at Detroit through the eyes of its firefighters; Two Children Of The Red Mosque, directed and produced by Hemal Trivedi, co-directed by Mohammad Naqvi, and produced by Whitney Dow and Jonathan Goodman Levitt, about two twelve-year-olds in Northwestern Pakistan; Desert Stars, directed and produced by Raouf Zaki, produced by Frank McDonnell, documenting the journey of one man who becomes a monk and then must confront the Egyptian revolution; and The New Black, directed by Yoruba Richen, produced by Yvonne Whelbon and Angela Tucker, looking at the histories of both the African-American and LGBT civil-rights movements.

The narrative project selected to participate by the Canadian Film Centre is Rhymes For Young Ghouls, written and directed by Jeff Barnaby, produced by John Christou and Aisling Chin-Yee, a coming-of-age story about a young Mi’gMaq girl.