Duo to star in Redford-directed period drama

James McAvoy and Robin Wright Penn are set to star in the Robert Redford-directed “The Conspirator,” the period drama based on true events following the assassination of President Lincoln.

Pic, for which an October start date has been set, marks the first financed by the American Film Co., which is headed by online brokerage entrepreneur Joe Ricketts.

Redford will produce with Wildwood Enterprises’ Greg Shapiro and Bill Holderman and American Film Co. execs Robert Stone, Webster Stone and Brian Falk.

James Solomon penned the script. Redford last directed “Lions for Lambs.”

Wright Penn will play Mary Surratt, the only woman among a group charged with conspiring to kill the president. McAvoy will play Frederick Aiken, an idealistic young war hero who reluctantly defends Surratt and in the process comes to believe she is innocent.

Ricketts formed the American Film Co. to tell historically accurate American stories. As advisers on the pic the company has engaged Pulitzer Prize winner James McPherson and Lincoln assassination experts Thomas Turner and U.S. Army regimental historian Col. Fred Borch.

“Stories from our history are often more compelling than fiction,” Ricketts said. “Mary Surratt’s trial is a powerful, relevant story.”

McAvoy has been rumored to be reprising his role in “Wanted 2″ with director Timur Bekmambetov and possibly Angelina Jolie. “Wanted 2″ is also likely to shoot in 2010. He is repped by UTA and U.K.-based United Agents.

Wright Penn most recently starred in the Rebecca Miller-directed “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee.” She is repped by CAA.

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