Fox’s next X-Men flick, The Wolverine, and Charlie Kaufman’s Frank or Francis are just about as different as it gets – and yet both films are starting to move forward quickly, having narrowly avoided falling into development limbo.

Rumors are circulating around both titles, concerning a rising starlet and a well-to-do funnyman, who could show up in each respective movie. Neither one should be considered anything near a lock right now, though.

The Wolverine sequel is still aiming for a 2012 release, with franchise staple Hugh Jackman working under the direction of James Mangold (3:10 To Yuma). Kaufman’s latest mind-trip, by comparison, doesn’t have a tentative release date just yet, but could be ready to hit theaters by the latter half of next year, seeing how it already has three big-name actors attached to star.

The Wolverine

Assuming Fox still intends to make a Summer 2012 release date, production on Wolverine 2 could be as rushed a process as that on this year’s X-Men: First Class. That’s probably frustrating news for fans who felt the X-Men prequel suffered in quality from the too-fast turnaround time – and who worry that the promising Wolverine followup may as well. C’est la vie, it seems.

Shadow & Act claims that musician/actress Naturi Naughton (The Playboy Club) is the first new addition to the Wolverine sequel, where she’ll be playing the mutant Cecilia Reyes. For those not familiar with the character: Miss Reyes is a Afro-Latin American born in Puerto Rico, but raised in the Bronx, who can generate force fields and is a medical specialist in the area of trauma surgery. She is a reluctant member of the X-Men squad who traditionally has little to no interest in being a superhero.

In the original X-Men comics, Reyes was at one point a prisoner of a mutant concentration camp run by the Weapon X program. It seems possible then that The Wolverine could alter that narrative thread by revealing Reyes as having been one of the young mutants rescued near the end of X-Men Origins: Wolverine – thereby partially linking the events of that poorly-received prequel to Wolverine’s new starring vehicle.

The Wolverine is still expected to serve as primarily a standalone story that sees Jackman’s loner mutant head over to Japan for a new adventure, based on Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s acclaimed 1982 story arc (chronicled in “Wolverine” #1-4 and “Uncanny X-Men” #172-173). However, it could still contain elements that subtly connect it to the events of its predecessor.

Frank or Francis

Kevin James in ‘Zookeeper’

The Playlist has gotten ahold of Kaufman’s Frank or Francis screenplay and learned that the film features a role written specifically for Kevin James – namely, that of Kevin James, who stars in the movie-within-a-movie Obese City. If James were to sign on for the part, it would be a bit of meta-casting along the lines of John Malkovich’s role in Kaufman’s Being John Malkovich.

James is best known for starring in mainstream commercial projects like Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Zookeeper, or (nowadays) just about every other Adam Sandler comedy. So the artsier Frank or Francis would definitely be an interesting change of pace for him. Not to mention, it would also offer James the opportunity to send up his image as being “the funny fat guy” who makes shlock, a la Jack Black in Tropic Thunder.

Speaking of Black – he’s already onboard for Frank or Francis, which revolves around the rivalry between a Hollywood filmmaker and his greatest opponent: a highly-venamous blogger who delights in ridiculing his work. Nicolas Cage and Steve Carell are also attached to the pic, which is rumored to be part biting satire, part musical.

Suffice it to say, if you love Kaufman’s breed of semi-experimental narrative filmmaking style, Frank or Francis is definitely one to add to your must-see list.

We’ll keep you posted on the status of both The Wolverine and Frank or Francis as more information is released.

Source: Shadow & Act, The Playlist (via /Film)