10/27/2011 01:41 pm ET Updated Dec 27, 2011

Sean Penn Directing 'The Comedian' With Robert De Niro, Kristen Wiig

For the first time since "Into The Wild," Sean Penn is slipping back into the director's chair.

The two-time Oscar winning actor will helm "The Comedian," FilmNation Entertainment announced on Thursday, reuniting with his "Into The Wild" producer Art Linson to direct Robert De Niro and Kristen Wiig in the story of a very unusual relationship.

De Niro will play Jackie Burke, "a raging comic who is past his prime." Desperate to return to the spotlight, he is sentenced to perform community service after hitting an audience member with his microphone, and it is there that he meets Wiig, who plays Harmony, "a dazzling and defiant redhead who turns his life sideways."

At first glance, it sounds like a distant followup of "The King of Comedy," the Martin Scorsese-directed film in which De Niro played Robert Pupkin, an aspiring comedian who stalks down a late night talk show host. De Niro has mixed drama and comedy in the past decade or so, with the Focker movies dashed in with actioners such as "Righteous Kill," "The Killer Elite," and "Limitless." As for Wiig, she's been one of the hottest commodities in Hollywood since her mega hit "Bridesmaids" took theaters by storm this spring; she'll next star in "Imogen," a drama that she's producing.

Penn has been balancing a career in film and activism; he consulted with Hugo Chavez on freeing American hostages in Iran and has long been involved in Haiti relief, while also starring in "The Tree of Life," "This Must Be The Place" and the upcoming "Gangster Squad."