Thesp to co-star in Paramount comedy

EXCLUSIVE: Ben Kingsley is set to re-team with his “Hugo Cabret” co-star Sacha Baron Cohen in the Paramount comedy “The Dictator.”

Paramount had no comment on Kingsley’s casting.

Larry Charles, the helmer of both “Borat” and “Bruno,” is directing from a script by Baron Cohen and “Seinfeld” scribes Alec Berg, Jeff Schaffer and Dave Mandel.

Story follows a heroic dictator who risks his life to ensure that democracy never comes to the country he so lovingly oppressed.

Cohen will play both a goat herder and a deposed foreign ruler who loses his way while visiting America.

Kingsley will co-star as one of two Middle Eastern characters who factor into the plot, with Jason Mantzoukas (“The League”) in negotiations to play the other part.

Anna Faris, Kristen Wiig and Gillian Jacobs (“Community”) are in the running for the female lead as a supermarket worker, a role that calls for strong improvisational skills.

Cohen is producing with Scott Rudin, Berg, Schaffer and Mandel. The “Borat” trio of Dan Mazer, Ant Hines and Peter Baynham will exec produce, while Todd Schulman will serve as co-producer for Baron Cohen’s shingle Four By Two Films.

“The Dictator” slated to start production next month in New York and Morocco, and is scheduled for release on May 11, 2012.

Kingsley, who recently starred opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” will soon be seen as Papa Georges in “Hugo Cabret,” the Paramount period pic that reunites the Oscar-winning thesp with his “Shutter Island” director Martin Scorsese. The family film will be released on Nov. 23, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Kingsley is repped by CAA and by Independent Talent Group in the U.K., as well as attorney Rick Genow of Stone, Meyer, Genow, Smelkinson and Binder.

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