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James Franco will have to shoot his “Planet of the Apes” prequel quickly this summer. In September he heads to Yale University to begin graduate work in both the writing and film departments.

“It’s a first,” he said, his trademark grin spreading from ear to ear. I caught up with the multi-tasking Franco on Thursday night in Cannes. He showed his 13 ninute short film, “The Clerk’s Tale,” at the Critics Week finale. It was preceeded by Kirsten Dunst’s 6 minute short, “Bastard.” Both stars were there, and got a lot of  applause for their work. But it was Franco the kids were screaming for.

The actor, who’s also in “Howl,” this fall (from Sundance) and “Eat, Pray, Love,” has managed to make a lot of films while attenting New York University film school and Columbia University’s writing program. His NYU classmates actually came to the Critics Week screening last night. They’re an enthusiastic bunch. And they assured me that despite a nasty photo posted on a blog last year, Franco does not fall asleep in class.

Frankly. who could blame him? He’s on the go 24/7.

“The Clerk’s Tale,” is based on a poem by Spencer Reese, who worked in a Brooks Brothers store in Minneapolis for 14 years while writing his poems and hoping to get published. He was finally vindicated, and now is at Yale Divinity School. Technically. the short is Franco’s fifth film, but certainly it’s just the beginning of a long interesting career.

As for Dunst, her “Bastard” is stylish and well-executed. Bravo!

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