Franco, Reno set to star in WWI drama

James Franco and Jean Reno are set to star in “Flyboys,” a $60 million WWI drama to be directed by Tony Bill. Production is set to start April 18 in the U.K.

Electric Entertainment’s Dean Devlin is producing with Marc Frydman.

“Flyboys” is the first pic to get off the ground with its financing arranged via ICM’s indie film department as reconstituted under “Hotel Rwanda” exec producer Hal Sadoff.

Sadoff said the budget was raised through private equity, with Lions Gate Films Intl. selling foreign territories. Sadoff will make a domestic distribution deal later.

Scripted by David Ward, the drama details the adventures of the Lafayette Escadrille, young American fighter pilots who volunteered for the French military before the U.S. entered WWI. Ward rewrote a script originated by Phil Sears and Blake Evans.

Devlin, who operated without a domestic deal when he and Roland Emmerich made “Stargate,” was confident about heading down that path again as the subject matter is fresh.

“No one has yet done the ultimate aerial battle film with these kinds of aircraft,” Devlin said.Duncan Reid and James Clayton will exec produce with David Brown and Phil Goldfarb, while Electric principals Mark Roskin and Kearie Peak will co-produce. Rachel Olschan is associate producer.

Pic marks a reteam for scribe Ward and Bill, who both won Oscars last time around, when Ward wrote and Bill produced “The Sting.”

Franco, last seen in “Spider-Man 2,” recently wrapped the Disney drama “Annapolis” and the Fox drama “Tristan & Isolde.”

Reno, who next stars in “The Pink Panther,” will juggle “Flyboys” with “The Da Vinci Code” at Sony.

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