Catalan pic latest from Escandalo Films

SITGES — Brit thesp Martin Freeman (“Sherlock”) will co-star in “Animals,” the feature debut of Catalan director Marcal Fores.

Freeman, who is the subject of intense speculation over whether he will or will not play Bilbo Baggins in “The Hobbit” pics, plays a secondary school teacher in “Animals,” a fantasy-laced coming-of-age tale that Escandalo Films producer Sergi Casamitjana dubs as ” ‘Donnie Darko’ meets Gus Van Sant.”

Freeman was in Barcelona this week for rehearsals and returns for six to seven days of the eight-week shoot, Casamitjana added.

Further key cast on the English-language pic includes young Brit actors Augustus Prew (“The Borgias,” “About a Boy”), and Dimitri Leonidas (“Tormented”).

Shooting from next Monday, “Animals” is produced by Barcelona’s new talent powerhouse Escandalo (“Eva,” “Three Days With the Family”).

Spanish pubcaster TVE, paybox Canal Plus Spain and TVC, the Catalan state network, have pre-bought Spanish TV rights.

“Animals” is completely crewed by alums from Barcelona film school Escac, whose graduates include Juan Antonio Bayona (“The Impossible,” “The Orphanage”) and Guillem Morales (“Julia’s Eyes”).

Former students from Escac, which has been up and running for 14 years, are beginning to breakthrough on high-profile indie productions.

On “Animals,” for instance, cinematographer is Eduard Grau (“Buried,” “A Single Man”); Bernat Vilaplana (“Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Hellboy II: The Golden Army”) serves as editor.

Fores, Escandalo producer Aintza Serra and Enric Pardo penned the “Animals” screenplay.

Pic shoots in the Pyrenean foothills and Barcelona.

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