Sean Penn in talks to play famed literary editor

EXCLUSIVE: Bill Pohlad will direct Max Perkins drama

"Genius," the story of literary editor Max Perkins, is getting another shot at the screen.

Bill Pohlad, the producer-financier behind River Road Entertainment, is boarding to direct the showy drama and is in talks with longtime collaborator Sean Penn to star as Perkins.

The project has had many lives, including one incarnation with producer Michael London and Lawrence Kasdan attached to direct. But traction, and financing, was slippery. Pohlad and Penn put it on surer ground.

The pair have a strong working history, with Pohlad having produced and helped finance "Into the Wild," which Penn directed in 2007. Pohlad also is an executive producer on the political thriller "Fair Game" and Terrence Malick's "Tree of Life," two upcoming pics that star Penn.

Pohlad hasn't directed a movie since 1990, when he helmed the indie "Old Explorers," which starred Jose Ferrer and James Whitmore. Although he directed corporate pics and documentaries during the '90s, he put helming work aside to found River Road, which helped make "Brokeback Mountain" and, more recently, "The Runaways."

The John Logan script adapts A. Scott Berg's National Book Award-winning 2008 biography, "Max Perkins: Editor of Genius," telling the story of Perkins, the fedora-wearing eccentric editor-in-chief at New York publishing house Scribner, where he oversaw the release of works by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

"Genius" would focus on the relationship between Perkins and a young Thomas Wolfe, though the script is peopled with literary characters.

River Road will produce with Logan. Berg will executive produce.

The CAA-repped Penn, who has not committed to the movie, this month begins shooting "This Must Be the Place," a thriller about a retired rock star looking for an ex-Nazi war criminal who executed his father.

Meanwhile, Pohlad has begun to restructure Apparition, the indie distribution company that was thrown into turmoil when co-founder Bob Berney exited in May.