Director takes on Roman military drama

Helmer Kevin Macdonald will follow “State of Play” by directing the Roman military drama “The Eagle of the Ninth.”

Focus Features has signed to distribute domestically and sell offshore distribution rights for the pic, set to begin production in August.

Jamie Bell is set to star in the 2nd century A.D. tale, and Channing Tatum is in talks to join him. Script is by Jeremy Brock, who teamed with Macdonald on “The Last King of Scotland.”

Duncan Kenworthy is producing through his Toledo Prods. banner. Financing will come through the Focus deal and equity funding from Film 4, which will get U.K. broadcasting rights as part of its deal.

The story revolves around a wounded Roman soldier and his loyal Celtic slave who try to solve the mystery of the Ninth Legion, a brigade of Roman soldiers that vanished after heading into the untamed Highlands of Scotland 15 years earlier.

Hungarian locations will stand in for 2nd century England, while the Scottish scenes will be filmed in Scotland.

Bell is set to play the slave, while Tatum has been offered the lead but has not yet committed.

Macdonald’s “State of Play” will be released on April 17 by Universal Pictures, with Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck and Helen Mirren starring.

Kenworthy, who last produced “Love Actually,” also is producing an Emma Thompson-scripted remake of “My Fair Lady” that will star Keira Knightley, with Danny Boyle reportedly mulling the directing assignment.

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