TriStar Pictures has reached an agreement with Kenneth Branagh to direct and star in the studio’s “Frankenstein,” which will be produced by Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope, sources confirmed yesterday.

Nominated for Academy Awards as best director and best actor for his work on “Henry V,” Branagh will play Victor Frankenstein in the TriStar project.

Other cast decisions are pending.

“Frankenstein” will mark Branagh’s largest studio production to date. He previously directed”Henry V” and Paramount Pictures’ “Dead Again” in 1991. Branagh committed to “Frankenstein” after last night’s London premiere of his upcoming Goldwyn release “Peter’s Friends.”

TriStar president Marc Platt actively pursued Branagh because his creative sensibilities mesh with the Zoetrope project–designed as a faithful adaptation of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s 1818 work.

Developed at the studio by TriStar production president Stacey Lassally and senior veepee of production Michael Besman, “Frankenstein” looms as one of TriStar’s biggest 1993 releases.

“Both (TriStar chairman) Mike Medavoy and I are delighted to be working with Ken Branagh,” Platt said, adding that Branagh’s “distinctive and proven talents as both a filmmaker and an actor — combined with the Gothic and theatrical tableau of Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ — promise to provide an extraordinary entertainment.”

Zoetrope president Fred Fuchs will executive produce “Frankenstein,” while Coppola and “Dracula” scripter Jim Hart will produce.

The project marks the first produced screenplay for Steph Lady.

Pre-production on “Frankenstein is set to start in January, with production planned in England during spring of 1993. “Frankenstein” is penciled in for release around Christmas 1993.

In bringing “Frankenstein” to life, Zoetrope originally accepted the project from Creative Artists Agency and brought in “Dracula” screenwriter Hart to supervise Lady’s “Frankenstein” adaptation. TriStar purchased the project from CAA for Zoetrope earlier this year.

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