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NEW YORK — James Franco, who played a rebel in NBC’s recently axed “Freaks and Geeks,” has been cast as James Dean in the upcoming TNT biopic “James Dean: An Invented Life.”

“I am so relieved,” said Mark Rydell, who will direct and exec produce the telepic. “I was never confident the picture would be made until I found him.”

In addition to “Freaks,” Franco’s credits include “Never Been Kissed” and the upcoming VH1 telepic “At Any Cost.” He is currently filming the indie pic “Deuces Wild” with Fairuza Balk, Brad Renfro and Matt Dillon.

In addition to directing and exec producing, Rydell will play Jack Warner, Dean’s surrogate father at Warner Bros., who cast him in “Rebel Without a Cause” and “Giant.” Rydell is looking to cast the roles of Martin Landau, Pier Angeli, Elia Kazan, Lee Strasberg, Nicholas Ray and George Stevens.

Production on “James Dean” will begin in mid-June in the Los Angeles area.

Franco is repped by ICM and managed by Randy James at James Levy Jacobson.