James Franco will bring lesser-known John Steinbeck book to screen

James Franco will bring John Steinbeck's novel "In Dubious Battle" to screens.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Actor and author James Franco, who is rapidly becoming the Energizer Bunny of cinema, has announced the main cast for yet another film: an adaptation of John Steinbeck’s 1936 novel “In Dubious Battle.”

According to the Hollywood Reporter, shooting on the film will begin in March, with actors Bryan Cranston, Vincent D’Onofrio, Robert Duvall, Selena Gomez, Ed Harris and Danny McBride.

Franco is no stranger to Steinbeck adaptations; he starred in a Broadway version of “Of Mice and Men” last year.


“In Dubious Battle,” one of Steinbeck’s lesser-known books, follows a labor activist who tries to organize a strike among fruit pickers in Central California.

Franco will direct, Deadline reports, from a screenplay by Matt Rager, who also wrote the script for Franco’s 2013 film “As I Lay Dying,” based on the William Faulkner novel.

Franco has had a longstanding interest in literature. The actor has a bachelor’s degree in English from UCLA and a master’s in creative writing from Columbia University, and is a PhD candidate in English at Yale University. He’s also written several books: the novel “Actors Anonymous,” the short story collection “Palo Alto,” a book of poetry (“Directing Herbert White”), an autobiography (“A California Childhood”) and a collection of essays and collages (“Hollywood Dreaming”).

Although his latest big project was the controversial comedy “The Interview,” his film projects have tended toward the literary. He played Allen Ginsberg in the 2010 movie “Howl” and directed an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s “Child of God” and the not-yet released film “Bukowski,” about the Los Angeles poet Charles Bukowski. He starred in and directed several literary films, including “The Broken Tower,” a biopic about poet Hart Crane, William Faulkner’s novel “The Sound and the Fury,” and the forthcoming “Zeroville,” based on the Steve Erickson novel.

Franco also stars in two literary adaptations set for release this year: “The Little Prince,” based on the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry novella, and “The Adderall Diaries,” from Stephen Elliott’s memoir.