Thesp is eyeing 'Zeroville' as directing vehicle

James Franco has optioned feature film rights to Steve Erickson’s 2007 novel “Zeroville” and will develop the project under his Rabbit Bandini Prods. banner with an eye to direct the pic.

Franco will produce with Miles Levy and Vince Jolivette, but there are currently no plans for the thesp to star in the film. They are eyeing an early 2012 start date.

The darkly comic story follows Ike “Vikar” Jerome, a 24-year-old student who arrives in Hollywood in 1969 with dreams of breaking into the movie business, which is in the midst of a seismic shift as the decline of studios leads to the rise of independent directors. Jerome, who has tattoos of “A Place in the Sun” stars Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor on his head, becomes a successful film editor and embarks on a Hollywood journey that ends in both tragedy and discovery.

Characters in the book include Robert De Niro, Brian De Palma, Ryan O’Neal, John Milius, Margot Kidder, Ali McGraw, Paul Schrader and the ghost of Clift.

“Zeroville” was named one of the best novels of 2007 by Newsweek, the Washington Post BookWorld and the Los Angeles Times Book Review, among others.

Franco is set to play the title role in Disney’s “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” which starts filming this summer. He next stars in David Gordon Green’s comedy “Your Highness,” which Universal releases April 8, and also toplines 20th Century Fox’s “Rise of the Apes.”

Erickson’s next novel, “These Dreams of You,” will be published by Europa in February.

Franco is repped by CAA and James/Levy Management.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more