Coinciding with a career renaissance that began with the hit comedy "Pineapple Express" and a critical acclaim for "Milk," James Franco has been attending New York University's graduate film school working towards a degree in directing.  Actually, even more impressive, he was simultaneously completing his Master's in English at Columbia (yep, he's a brain). 

Now, in a move that should raise eyebrows among his fellow students, Franco is planning on starring in "In Praise of Shadows," an independent film being directed by Jay Anania, the head of the same directing program Franco is participating in.

Okay then.

According to Variety, "Shadows" finds a man (Franco) recounting his strange journey back to New York in order to rescue the love of his life from a crime syndicate. Franco was able to fit the film into his schedule before heading to Ireland later this summer to shoot "Your Highness" alongside Danny McBride and Natalie Portman.  He'll then return to NYU for the fall semester.

Franco's Rabbit Bandini Prods. is also producing the film.

Budgeted at less than $10 million, "Shadows" will begin shooting on June 15 in New York and hope for distribution luck on the festival circuit down the road.