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James Franco and Chris O'Dowd to make Broadway debuts in 'Of Mice and Men'

Hollywood golden boy James Franco and Irish comedian Chris O’Dowd will make their Broadway debuts this spring in a new revival of John Steinbeck’s literary classic Of Mice and Men.

Franco will star as George, a sharp-witted migrant field worker who dreams of a better life during the Great Depression. Bridesmaids breakout Chris O’Dowd will make his debut opposite Franco as the gentle, mentally disabled Lennie. Additional casting for the play’s other iconic roles (including Slim, Candy, Curley, and his wife) — as well as members of the design team — will be announced soon.

Tony-winning director Anna D. Shapiro (August: Osage County) is set to direct the play, which has not been seen on Broadway since a 1974 revival starring James Earl Jones. Steinbeck’s stage adaptation of his 1937 novel first premiered that same year at the Music Box Theatre.

Of Mice and Men will begin previews at Broadway’s Longacre Theatre on March 19, 2014. Opening night is slated for April 16, and the limited engagement is scheduled to end July 27.

This Week on Stage: Romeo, 'The Seagull,' and 'Wait Until Dark' in L.A.

More Bard, more Chekhov, and some choice revivals pepper this week’s lineup of new plays on the boards, with some notable stars getting their feet wet in classics (Alison Pill, Elizabeth Olsen, Alessandro Nivola, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), and expect more of the same this spring: Toni Collette, Michael C. Hall, and Oscar winner Marisa Tomei will join recent Best Actor Tony recipient (and acclaimed scribe) Tracy Letts in a new play by Will Eno on Broadway. Moreover, buzz has restarted that James Franco may finally make his long-awaited Main Stem debut in a revival of Of Mice and Men (or is he just trying to get even more attention?). And the stars will keep on comin’ — check back next week for reviews of new plays featuring Mary-Louise Parker and David Hyde Pierce (click on the links below to read the newest full reviews):

The Model Apartment  After an Off Broadway debut 20 years ago, Donald Margulies’ (Time Stands Still) unsettling play about Holocaust survivors weathering a temporary apartment and family dysfunction has long been considered one of the playwright’s most challenging works. Did Melissa Rose Bernardo find it worth reviving? A resounding yes: “It’s almost certainly the only Holocaust comedy you’ve ever seen…how Margulies conceived this nightmarish dream world I’ll never know. But I do know it’s one I’m not likely to forget.” EW grade: A-

Romeo & Juliet  Martha Marcy May Marlene star Elizabeth Olsen stars alongside T.R. Knight and Daphne Rubin-Vega in a modern-dress take on the tragedy about star-crossed lovers (the second of two this fall season, after Orlando Bloom’s critically drubbed Broadway take). Senior editor Thom Geier found this one considerably less than a rose by any other name, dubbing it “sadly amateurish… [Tea] Alagic’s production makes [little] sense…the cast seems to have been left to its own devices to create their characters and block their scenes.” EW grade: D+

The Seagull  Trudie Styler (known to most of us as Sting’s longtime spouse and producer extraordinaire) hits the stage as Anton Chekhov’s actress Arkadina (dubbed Isobel here) in an Irish-set downtown revival of the oft-produced country drama. Does this Seagull have wings? Stephan Lee claims Styler “shines” but adds that “director Max Stafford-Clark doesn’t stray too far from the original spirit of this classic, but his production is unlikely to win new fans.” EW grade: B

Wait Until Dark The Newsroom’s Alison Pill takes a stab (pun intended) at a role created memorably by Audrey Hepburn in Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation of the spooker about a blind woman terrorized by con men. Lindsey Bahr insists the tense thriller still has a kick. “[The production] reminds CGI-infected audiences that a few shadows, a shiny knife, and compelling characters can still go a long way to create suspense… the famous showdown does not disappoint.” EW grade: A–

The Winslow Boy  Roundabout Theatre Company revives Terrence Rattigan’s 1946 English drama about a family’s efforts to clear their son’s good name from a crime, starring Roger Rees, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and Alessandro Nivola. Thom Geier had mixed feelings about the production: “Director Lindsay Posner, who previously staged the show at London’s Old Vic, brings a crisp precision to the proceedings. But there’s only so much you can do with the material, which feels like an over-long and decidedly twee Masterpiece Theatre drama.” EW grade: B-

Britney Spears wants James Franco as Christian Grey: 5 reasons he's actually perfect for it

Everyone’s favorite parlor game — “Who should play Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey Movie/trainwreck/the cinematic experience of our time” — just got another celebrity participant. If one Ms. Britney Spears had her way, sexy, dominating businessman Christian Grey will be played by James Franco.

“I love James Franco,” Spears replied when asked about her pick. “I think he’s really cool.” That kind of teenspeak is Spears gushing! She’s all in!

It’s easy to dismiss her remarks with a laugh (and you can get a second chuckle picturing Spears reading Fifty Shades of Grey for the first time: “This is dirty, y’all!”), but while, yes, Franco is a bona fide movie star who probably has no interest, he actually seems like a solid choice that might actually sign on, as opposed to other A-list wish-list names, such as Leonardo DiCaprio or Christian Bale. Props to Ms. Spears. (Franco’s rep didn’t reply to EW’s request for comment.)

Is tortured artist James Franco secretly the perfect person to play tortured torturer Christian Grey? They both have been called freaks, after all. Franco loves a good controversial project (Spring Breakers!), so let’s really think this through, because if you’re anything like Britney and me, your ears may have just perked up at the one name that would actually get you into the theater opening weekend, if only so you could watch him smirk to the camera for 90 minutes. READ FULL STORY

'The Mindy Project' season 2: New and improved?

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I wanted to like the first season of The Mindy Project. I really did.

But even though I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Mindy Kaling fan from way back when — I ate up every Subtle Sexuality video, read Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? as soon as I could get my hands on a copy, and still remember yearning to see Matt & Ben when I was in high school — there was just something about the ex-Office star’s sitcom that didn’t connect with me.
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James Franco's Comedy Central roast: A drinking game

True, we already know the best jokes told at Franco’s ritual ribbing; EW was on the scene for the event’s taping, which happened last Sunday.

But drinking games aren’t about surprises. They’re about recognizing predictable words and behaviors, ones that are repeated frequently but not so frequently that following them would make playing the game physically impossible. (Which would be why we’re not asking you to sip every time James Franco squints.)

So with that in mind, let’s consider some of the topics that will likely come up again and again when Comedy Central airs the roast this Monday, Sept. 2 at 10 p.m. Obviously, PopWatch cautions you to celebrate responsibly — especially if you’re planning to indulge in Franco’s drug of choice.*

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James Franco's Comedy Central roast: The 26 best lines

At the Comedy Central roast of James Franco, Seth Rogen, Andy Samburg and Aziz Ansari relentlessly picked apart the honoree.

Franco admitted post-show that sharing the berating burden with the rest of the dais — Jonah Hill’s weight was the biggest target of the night — made it easier to endure countless jokes about his failure as an Oscar host, his ambiguous sexuality, questionable film choices, constant schooling and general renaissance man qualities with a smile on his face. “I’ve never watched one of these roasts. I chose not to research this so I had no idea that they were going to be roasting each other [too]. I thought I’d be sitting here for two hours bearing the brunt of it so it was a huge relief,” Franco explained. “I had a great time. Everybody was awesome, solid.”

You can see just how awesome when the special airs on Sept. 2 and until then here are some of the night’s best putdowns, slams and lampoons: READ FULL STORY

'Hollywood Game Night': Ranking the freakishly fascinating facial mashups

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On Thursday’s Hollywood Game Night, the teams (Max Greenfield, Ellie Kemper, Kal Penn, and plebian Jill vs. Kenan Thompson, Minnie Driver, Angela Kinsey and plebe Dipal) participated in a riveting round of Celebrity Fusion — in which two celebs with a common name had their faces smeared into each other and presented as art. (So basically, Conan’s “If They Mated,” but on a show with a different title.) I’m VERY ashamed of how long it took me to guess the above beauty, but at least I didn’t say “Boy George..Carlin?” like poor JIll.

Doesn’t take much to fascinate me on a summer Friday! I’m gonna rank these creatures from least horrifying to most:

MILDLY SCARY:

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Pamela Anderson Cooper (not not hot)

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Steven Tyler Perry (yikes, but pedestrian)

Screen Shot 2013-08-22 at 5.01.55 PM

Steve Martin Short (Tom Brokaw in a wind tunnel?) READ FULL STORY

Watch James Franco get punched in the face -- VIDEO

So technically, this video is a promo for James Franco’s upcoming Comedy Central Roast, which airs Sept. 2. But we prefer to think that whoever’s behind that boxing glove (and behind the camera) has a deeper reason for wanting to clock The Francinator — because Lord knows there are enough people dying to do just that.

Maybe it’s the ghost of James Dean. Maybe it’s a struggling MFA grad burning with resentment over Palo Alto. Maybe it’s that angry NYU professor who sued Franco last fall. Maybe it’s Anne Hathaway.

Regardless, we’ve got to give the good people at Comedy Central a round of applause for making a pretty perfect commercial. And then we’ve got to take a moment to ponder how we really feel about James Franco… because between Spring Breakers, This Is the End, and the following clip, it’s becoming a lot harder to hold a grudge against the guy. Damnit, James!
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James Franco writes the most ridiculous superhero article ever. We have some concerns.

Dear James Franco,

Congratulations! You’re kind of having a moment right now. Your hilarious turn as “yourself” – an art-obsessed serious actor who may or may not be gay – in This Is The End is a recent high point for you that is charming audiences and critics alike. This is a great break because, despite being an Oscar-nominated dramatic actor, people tend to kind of roll their eyes at you and your various projects, books, and college courses. (Not me! But some people.) I figured you could ride this out and parlay it into a few more great, interesting films that would remind people why they were intrigued by you as an actor in the first place and I wouldn’t have to worry about what’s become of you anymore, and I could move on to worrying if Ryan Gosling has become a parody of himself.

But then you went and wrote one of the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read from you. I don’t even know what to do with it. According to an all-over-the-place article you wrote for Vice about superheroes, you snuck into the premiere of Man of Steel and now you’ve got thoughts about superheroes! And money! And Henry Cavill! And sequels!

Let’s highlight a few quotes from your piece, shall we?
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James Franco goes Indiegogo route for his planned 'Palo Alto' movies

The day after This Is the End became the biggest comedy of the weekend, James Franco appealed to his fans to help secure financing for the latest of his more personal artistic endeavors. The renaissance man launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $500,000 so he can adapt 10 short stories from his 2010 collection, Palo Alto, into three feature films. The stories are fictionalized tales that echo Franco’s own “coming of age” experiences growing up in the Bay Area, and he’s selected a quartet of promising NYU-educated filmmakers to bring them to the big screen. “I’m putting money into these projects because I believe in them, I believe in these filmmakers,” Franco says in the video appeal (which can be viewed below). “We just need a little bit more help.”

Half a million dollars isn’t much to make one film, much less three, but it’s currently unclear how much Franco himself is investing in the movies. (A representative for Franco did not immediately respond to EW’s request for clarification.)

One perk, though, of using Indiegogo’s Flexible Funding campaign, rather than an option like Kickstarter, is that Franco’s team will keep whatever monies are raised, even if they don’t reach their goal in 30 days. If there are ultimately any profits from the films’ sales, Franco intends to give 100 percent of them to Art of Elysium, a nonprofit he works with that unites actors, artists and musicians with sick children.

But it might not just be Franco-philes or dedicated patrons of indie cinema who ultimately make these films a reality; for just $5,000, you can be one of 15 backers who land a speaking role in one of the movies. So far, Franco has raised $25,720 — and gained one cast member — with 30 days remaining.

Watch Franco’s video below:
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