James Franco is a top contender for the starring role in the upcoming spy-action blockbuster The Bourne Legacy.

The studious screen star — who has left fans fainting with a harrowing self-amputation scene in the Ripped From the Headlines adventure biopic 127 Hours –has been approached by director Tony Gilroy, who is interested in having the actor succeed Matt Damon as star of The Bourne Legacy, the fourth film in the Bourne franchise — which includes The Bourne Identity and its sequels The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Acquistion.

This is the first in the franchise that will not feature Matt Damon as lead character Jason Bourne — a fact which the Oscar-winning action star, 32, learned after reports surfaced on the blogosphere pointing to the end of his run with the series!

“I couldn’t imagine trying to replace him. All the conspiratorial politics aside, these are very un-cynical, honest movies, and I don’t know another actor who brings more integrity and dignity, and a lack of cynicism to his work than Matt,” Gilroy confessed recently. “This is not a reboot or a recast or a prequel. No one’s replacing Matt Damon. There will be a whole new hero, a whole new chapter… this is a stand-alone project,” he added.

The Bourne Legacy is expected to hit theaters in 2012.

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