Jena Malone's Heart Is a 'Lonely Hunter'

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Jena Malone is one tough cookie and definitely not an actor to shy away from a challenging project.

She's just signed on for the lead role in "Lonely Hunter," the life story of Southern gothic author Carson McCullers. Deborah Kampmeier, who was last seen behind the lens of the controversial Dakota Fanning flick "Hounddog," will be directing. It's definitely a dicey move for Malone, but a welcome one.

Malone's no stranger to the rough-and-tumble Southern gothic genre; she made her debut in the intense adaptation of Dorothy Allison's "Bastard Out of Carolina." While "Bastard" takes place in a very different era than when McCullers was living, it's hard to imagine one existing without the other. After that, she stole Donnie Darko's heart (and ours) right before the world went kaplooey, and has gone on to rock indies like "Into the Wild" and blockbusters like "Sucker Punch" alike.

Besides being an immensely gifted writer, McCullers had a tumultuous personal life. Although she was very successful at an early age -- she wrote one of her most famous novels, "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" at the tender age of 23 -- she struggled with depression and alcoholism, a variety of illnesses and survived a suicide attempt. Described by Full Moon Films as "a wild woman who transgressed gender laws and the color bar searching to understand her own mysterious passions," McCullers's life is the topic of many a literary biographer, from her sexuality to her marriage, divorce, and remarriage to Reeves McCullers, who later committed suicide. Juicy stuff for an actor to sink her teeth into, for sure.

Filming is set to begin this spring, so it will be a while before we can see Malone in McCullers mode. Meanwhile, you can catch her in the upcoming lesbian werewolf love story (awesome!) "Jack and Diane" with Juno Temple and Riley Keough. Malone has several other films in the can, although not all have release dates, such as "The Wait" with uber-fashionable Chloë Sevigny and the drama "For Ellen" with Paul Dano.