Luke Evans Dracula
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Studiocanal has acquired rights for the U.K.

LONDON — Luke Evans (“Dracula Untold,” “The Hobbit”) will star in Ben Wheatley’s action shootout movie “Free Fire,” which is being launched for pre-sales at AFM by Protagonist Pictures.

The cast of the $10 million budget film, Wheatley’s first set in the U.S., will also feature Armie Hammer (“The Social Network,” “The Lone Ranger” and next year’s “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”), Cillian Murphy (“Inception,” “Batman Begins”), Olivia Wilde (“Her,” “Rush”) and Wheatley regular Michael Smiley (“Kill List,” “Black Sea”) in a story about an arms deal that goes spectacularly wrong.

Andy Starke will produce for Starke and Wheatley’s Rook Films, whose recent production of Peter Strickland’s “The Duke of Burgundy” premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, with Film4 on board as one of the financiers. Casting is by Shaheen Baig. Production is scheduled for spring 2015.

Studiocanal, which has a long history with Wheatley, has acquired rights for the U.K. Domestic rights are repped by WME.

The story is set in Boston in 1978. Wilde plays Justine, a woman who has brokered a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two Irishmen (Murphy, Smiley) and a gang led by Hammer and Evans, who are selling them a stash of guns. But when shots are fired in the handover, a heart-stopping game of survival ensues.

Wheatley said: “The idea for ‘Free Fire’ came from my love of hard-boiled crime movies; from ‘The Asphalt Jungle,’ ‘The Big Sleep,’ ‘The Killing’ and ‘The Big Combo’ through ‘The Driver,’ ‘Le Samourai’ and ‘The French Connection,’ to the modern cycle of ‘Goodfellas,’ ‘Casino,’ ‘Hard Boiled’ and ‘Reservoir Dogs.’

“’Free Fire’ will take you and stick you in the middle of the action. I want the film to have the stylish, no-nonsense feel that you get in Peckinpah’s ‘The Getaway.’ It’s a modern ‘70s movie. Muscular, tough and spare.”

Wheatley is in post on his movie adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s “High-Rise,” which stars Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller and Luke Evans. He fast rose to prominence as one of the U.K.’s most distinctive directors with “Down Terrace” (2009), “Kill List” (2011), “Sightseers” (2012) and “A Field in England” (2013). He recently directed the first two episodes of the latest season of “Doctor Who,” starring Peter Capaldi as the Time Lord.

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