Seventeen years after the death of Tennessee Williams, devoted pal Faye Dunaway is finally getting the chance to make a movie based on his short story, The Yellow Bird. But the star of Bonnie and Clyde and Chinatown is stepping behind the camera for the first time as director of the TV movie.

"He and I always talked about me making a movie out of it," the Oscar-winning actress tells TV Guide Online, "so it's nice now that I'm able to actually do it."

The comedy — which stars James Coburn, Brenda Blethyn and Cynthia Watros (Fox's Titus) — is slated to air early next year on the new Women's Entertainment cable network (currently Romance Classics). Musician Robert Palmer is overseeing the soundtrack, which will include an original song by Grammy-winner Diane Warren.

"It's a kind of kick-ass story about a girl repressed and restrained always in her life who ultimately, in pretty quick order, breaks free," she says of Yellow Bird, which will also feature a narration by Williams that he taped prior to his death.

Those familiar with such classic Williams dramas as A Streetcar Named Desire and A Glass Menagerie are likely to be surprised by his comedic turn. "It's full of the life that Tennessee had," says Dunaway, who became close to the legendary playwright after he hand-picked her to star as Blanche Dubois opposite Jon Voight in a 1980 stage production of Streetcar. "Anyone who knows Tennessee [knows] he was a hilariously funny man."

Dunaway isn't revealing the budget on her directorial debut, but she hints it's no Titanic. "I don't believe in fattened movies that cost too much," she says. "The best kind of filmmaking, I think, goes against the grain of Hollywood."