Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch Heading ‘Into The Wild’

Flick, to be directed by Penn, based on John Krakauer book.

The desire to escape from society’s feverish pace is a universal one, briefly indulged in the minds of most and occasionally realized by extremists dating all the way back to Henry David Thoreau. Shackled by BlackBerries, cell phones, e-mail and entourages, there can be little doubt that Hollywood’s biggest stars occasionally dream of dropping off the radar. Now, Emile Hirsch and Sean Penn are actually going to do it.

“My next project is based on a book called ‘Into the Wild’ by John Krakauer,” Hirsch said. “It’s basically about a guy who is kind of going in search of himself.”

Adapted from Krakauer’s best-selling true story of an intelligent, idealistic young man who abandons his upper-middle-class family to live out of a backpack and roam the world alone, the “Wild” movie will be produced by a team including “Brokeback Mountain” overseer Bill Pohlad. The project marks the directorial resurrection of Sean Penn, whose previous credits include “The Pledge,” The Indian Runner” and “The Crossing Guard.”

Set largely in Alaska, the film will follow the character of Chris McCandless, played by Hirsch, as he abandons his worldly possessions and hitchhikes to the 49th state. Concluding his quest to return to nature, the young man was eventually found dead in an abandoned bus at a campsite.

“There are other people that you meet [in the script, along the journey],” Hirsch said, acknowledging the difficulties of adapting the largely solitary tale. “It should be really cool. With Sean Penn [directing it], it should be a really epic process.”

Expecting the film to begin shooting later on this year, the 20-year-old California native is clearly thrilled to bring the raw acting skills he broke out with in last year’s “Lords of Dogtown” to a film overseen by Oscar-winner Penn. No other actors have been announced yet and, as with his previous directorial efforts, Penn is expected to remain exclusively behind the camera.

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