Zwick will write, direct, produce film

Edward Zwick and thesp Daniel Craig are teaming for World War II action-drama “Defiance,” about a band of Jewish resistance fighters.

Paramount Vantage is in advanced negotiations to pick up domestic distrib rights.

Zwick is writing, directing and producing. Film — the next for both of them — is based on a true story and is set to begin lensing in early September, meaning Craig will shoot “Defiance” before he begins filming the next James Bond installment.

London-based Grosvenor Park is financing the film, whose budget is set at around $50 million. Word of the project broke at the Cannes Film Fest, where Jere Haufstater’s Essential Entertainment is handling international sales.

Zwick, who last directed “Blood Diamond,” will produce through his Bedford Falls banner. He began developing “Defiance” 8 years ago after picking up the film rights to Nechama Tec’s non-fiction tome of the same name.

Storyline follows four Jewish brothers living in Nazi occupied Poland who escape into the forest, where they join up with Russian resistance fighters in battling the Nazis and trying to save the lives of other Jews.

Craig is next in theaters with “The Invasion,” which opens Aug. 17, and “His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass,” which bows Dec. 7. He stars opposite Nicole Kidman in both films.

“Bond 22″ is eying a winter start date. Release is set for Nov. 7, 2008.

For Zwick, “Defiance” is the first World War II drama he’s tackled, although he’s directed two other war pics, “Courage Undre Fire” and “Glory.”

“Defiance” joins several other high-profile World War II features in the works, including filmmaker Bryan Singer’s Tom Cruise-starrer “Valkyrie.”

(Diane Garrett contributed to this report.)

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