Actor in talks to play Hugh Hefner

After he was initially eyed to play the male lead of Chuck Traynor in “Lovelace,” James Franco is in talks to cameo as Playboy founder Hugh Hefner in the indie drama that will reunite him with his “Howl” helmers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman.

Should a deal close, Franco would join newly cast supporting players Hank Azaria, Bobby Cannavale, Chris Noth and Robert Patrick, as well as stars Amanda Seyfried and Peter Sarsgaard.

Set between the birth of the sexual revolution and the culmination of the feminist movement, “Lovelace” depicts the life of Linda Boreman, who as Linda Lovelace became the world’s first erotic superstar due to the success of “Deep Throat.”

Azaria will play “Deep Throat” writer-director Jerry Damiano, who prides himself on having made a porn movie with a story, characters and humor. Cannavale and Noth will play “Deep Throat” financiers Butchie Peraino and Anthony Romano, who go into business with Linda’s pornographer husband Traynor (Sarsgaard) after he shows them a home movie of her special skill. Patrick will play Linda’s father John Boreman, who initially falls for Chuck’s charm when Linda brings him home but later finds himself ashamed of his daughter’s newfound celebrity.

Franco is expected to be on set for a single day; his screentime as Hefner will be limited to scenes in which the magazine mogul welcomes Linda and Chuck to the Playboy Mansion for a screening of “Deep Throat” and has a heart-to-heart with Linda about her future.

Sharon Stone, Juno Temple and Wes Bentley co-star as Linda’s mother, best friend and second husband, respectively, while other notable supporting roles that have yet to be cast include Linda’s “Deep Throat” co-star Harry Reems, Gloria Steinem and Sammy Davis Jr.

Production on the Andy Bellin-scripted pic began today in Los Angeles, and the film is being made with the cooperation of Linda Lovelace’s estate.

“Lovelace” is a Millennium Films production that will be produced by Heidi Jo Markel for Eclectic Pictures, Laura Rister and Jason Weinberg for Untitled Entertainment and Jim Young for Animus Films. Exec producers include Boaz Davidson, Danny Dimbort, Mark Gill, W. Merritt Johnson, Avi Lerner, Trevor Short and John Thompson for Nu Image/Millennium Films.

Franco, who most recently toplined “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and will soon wrap the title role in Sam Raimi’s “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” is repped by CAA and manager Miles Levy of James/Levy Management.

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