James Franco Trades Brooklyn For Yellow Brick Road, Exits 'While We're Young'

[caption id="attachment_31293" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Getty Images"]James Franco[/caption]

Caustically funny "Squid and the Whale" writer/director Noah Baumbach, best known for his ability to nab major talent (Nicole Kidman, Jack Black, Jesse Eisenberg, Ben Stiller, etc) for largely unsympathetic but meaty parts as damaged souls, may be getting especially bitter about the situation on his latest project.

Coming off the critical success of their brilliant collaboration on "Greenberg," Stiller & Baumbach planned to reunite for "While We're Young," about a young Brooklyn couple who inspire an uptight documentary filmmaker and his wife to live life to its fullest.

With power-producer Scott Rudin in tow and Focus Features lined-up to distribute, it all looked like a done deal until a game of musical chairs sent the production into uncertainty. Originally intended to star Stiller & Jennifer Jason Leigh as well as James Franco & "Arthur" cutie Greta Gerwig, until Baumbach and Leigh's own marriage dissolved this Fall, and Gerwig threw up her hands and was like, "peace."

Cate Blanchett replaced Leigh on condition that the two male stars stay in the frame but, according to Just Jared, Franco has ditched the indie "While We're Young" so he can play in the blockbuster sandbox with Sam Raimi again on "Oz: The Great and Powerful"… while he's young, supposedly. As per her deal, Blanchett had flown the coop as well.

There are many suitable indie darlings to replace Gerwig (Zoe Kazan's all like, "Hey Noah, you've got my number, right?"), but having to replace two marquee names like Blanchett and Franco, Oscar cross-dressing notwithstanding, is a tall order for a talented but questionably bankable auteur like Baumbach. Although Stiller remains, this may be too much turmoil to make the originally planned June start, but we love Stiller, Baumbach, and the concept. Hopefully it'll be made while WE'RE young.