Of Mice and Men: Starring James Franco

James Franco, the multi-talented artist, will make his Broadway debut in a new production of John Steinbeck’s famous play, “Of Mice and Men,” co-starring opposite Chris O’Dowd.  Previews will begin at the Longacre Theater on March 19, 2014.

Producer David Binder has been working to pull together a new staging of the 1937 play version of the John Steinbeck novel for a while now, and Franco has seemed a likely leading man.

Slot for the show has become available now that Rialto real estate has opened up at the Longacre, where tuner “First Date,” which has never lit up the box office, recently announced it would shutter January 5.

Franco will play George, the itinerant ranch worker on the hunt for opportunities with Lennie, the mentally limited man to be played by O’Dowd (“Bridesmaids,” “Family Tree”), also making his Broadway debut. Anna D. Shapiro, who picked up a Tony for her direction of “August: Osage County,” directs.

Revival of the play, the first on the Main Stem since 1974, is produced by Binder along with Kate Lear, Darren Bagert, Adam Zotovich, Barbara Whitman and Latitude Link. 101 Prods. is on board as executive producer.

Franco marks the latest high-profile Hollywood name to give Broadway a try, and pairing a familiar face with a familiar title is one of the most reliably profitable financial models on the Rialto.  Still, few stars have the muscle to pull in huge numbers like Daniel Craig in the current revival of “Betrayal,” and it remains to be seen just how big Franco’s draw at the Broadway box office will be.

“Of Mice and Men” starts previews March 19 ahead of an April 16 opening.

In the same season, Oscar-winner Denzel Washington will star in a  revival of “A Raisin in the Sun,” a play and film that are known for the strong performances from Sidney Poitier.