James Franco To Star In Planet of the Apes Prequel

If you were among those who predicted that James Franco would one day become an A-list star, well, it looks like you were right. Variety is reporting that Franco has beat out a host of hotshot young actors to snag the lead in Fox’s upcoming Planet of the Apes prequel Rise of the Apes. The 32-year-old actor apparently won over director Rupert Wyatt this past weekend. The film is slated for a June 24, 2011 release.

Franco will play a scientist who’s in the middle of a war between humans and apes. The conflict begins when man’s experimentation on primates results in advanced ape intelligence that rivals our own. The apes will be created digitally via CGI, which is a departure from the costume approach of all the past Apes films. The film’s backdrop will be present-day San Francisco.

Franco’s had some huge roles — Harry Osborn in the Spider-Man series and Saul the Stoner in Pineapple Express come to mind — but this is by far the biggest opportunity of his career. For the first time ever, he’s going to be the leading man in a summer tentpole flick. Let’s just hope he does a better job bringing back the Apes saga than Marky Mark did (you’d think a guy who can talk to animals so well would do better).

I’m ready to give Franco a shot. Maybe he’ll pull a Heath Ledger and surprise us all. This bit of casting has me more excited about Rise of the Apes than I previously was. I guess the whole thing just feels fresh to me, which is saying something considering we’re only about a decade removed from the Burton debacle.