James Franco
James Franco will reportedly play Hugh Hefner in the upcoming Linda Lovelace biopic. REUTERS

James Franco might be channeling his inner 'Hef pretty soon.

The 33-year-old actor is close to signing a deal to play Hugh Hefner in the upcoming Linda Lovelace biopic, Variety reported on Tuesday.

Franco's role as the Playboy king and founder would add him to an already stellar cast of Lovelace, which stars Hank Azaria, Bobby Cannavale, Chris Noth, Peter Sarsgaard and Amanda Seyfried (who will play Lovelace).

Lovelace tells the story of the woman who became the most famous porn star of her time thanks to her part in the 1972 porn film Deep Throat. Lovelace, whose real last name was Boreman, would later join the feminist anti-pornography movement before contracting hepatitis from a blood transfusion. She died in 2002, after succumbing to injuries from a serious car accident in Denver, Colorado. She was 53 years old.

According to Variety, Franco's role is very small -- he is expected to shoot for one day, depicting Hefner when Deep Throat was screened at the famous Playboy Mansion. Hefner reportedly had a heart-to-heart with Lovelace about her future at the time.

The film, which also stars Sharon Stone, Juno Temple and Wes Bentley, is directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, who worked with Franco in the 2010 Allen Ginsberg biopic, Howl.

Playing Hefner is just the latest big news to fill Franco's week. The 127 Hours actor is caught in the middle of a lawsuit involving NYU and a former professor who gave Franco a D in one of his classes. The professor, José Angel Santana, was later fired by NYU.

The school has bent over backwards to create a Franco-friendly environment, that's for sure . . . the university has done everything in its power to curry favor with James Franco, Santana told The New York Post on Tuesday.

Franco, who is currently completing multiple graduate degrees, including a PhD in English at Yale University, has yet to comment on Santana's lawsuit against NYU. Franco's most recent film, The Rise of the Planet of the Apes, emerged as one of the biggest summer blockbusters this year, grossing more than $481 million at the box office worldwide.

The occasional soap opera actor (he still appears on General Hospital) has at least four projects lined up for 2012, including the Sam Raimi-directed Oz: the Great and Powerful, based on the 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The film also stars Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz.

Lovelace began production in Los Angeles this week.

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