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Cannes: Nicolas Cage’s ‘USS Indianapolis’ Bought by Saban Films (EXCLUSIVE)

Saban Films has acquired North American rights to Hannibal Classics’ World War II movie “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage,” starring Nicolas Cage.

Tom Sizemore, Thomas Jane, Matt Lanter and Brian Presley have joined the cast, with shooting starting in mid-June in Mobile, Ala.

Mario Van Peebles will direct from a script by Cam Cannon and Hannibal Classics principal Richard Rionda Del Castro. Producers are Rionda Del Castro and Michael Mendelsohn of Patriot Pictures, who is financing “Men of Courage” with Hannibal Classics.

Ness Saban and Saban Films president Bill Bromiley will exec produce along with Patricia Eberle, Timothy Patrick Cavanaugh, Dama Claire, Jamal Hanan, Mariusz Lukomski and Frederico Lapenda.

Cage, who starred in “Tokarev” for Hannibal, will take on the role of Capt. Charles Butler McVay, whose ship was torpedoed in the South Pacific in July 1945, after delivering parts for the first atomic bombs. Their mission was classified, so the Indianapolis was not reported missing until four days later.

Of 1,196 crewmen aboard, approximately 300 went down with the ship, while the rest faced exposure, dehydration, saltwater poisoning and shark attacks as they waited for assistance. Only 317 sailors survived, and McVay was court-martialed, then exonerated more than half a century later.

Sizemore, who has appeared in military dramas including “Saving Private Ryan,” “Pearl Harbor” and “Black Hawk Down,” will portray McWhorter, one of the men in the water with McVay. Jane will co-star as the pilot Chuck Gwinn, who spotted the crew of the USS Indianapolis on the fifth day of their ordeal.

To depict the actual planes involved in the real rescue of the men, production has secured use of two fully operational WWII planes. Producers have also been in contact with the Gwinn family.

“The Gwinn Family is pleased that the heroic story of the USS Indianapolis is finally being told on the bigscreen,” said Jane Gwinn Goodall, daughter of the pilot. “We are humbled by the miraculous circumstances that brought our father Wilbur ‘Chuck’ Gwinn into the path of these men, leading to their rescue.”

Maria Eck Bullard, daughter of survivor Harold Eck, said, “I have personally been very impressed with the dignity and consideration that the team at Hannibal has given the story to ensure accuracy and respect for all factions concerned.”

The film is scheduled to be released over the 2016 Memorial Day weekend. Van Peebles, who directed “New Jack City,” joined the project last year. Cage came on to the project during the Berlin Film Festival, and Hannibal is selling international rights at Cannes.

Hannibal has developed the film for five years, consulting with survivors, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard, Alabama Film Commission, the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Association and the City of Mobile Film Office.

The film will use the USS Alabama and USS Drum submarine to re-create the USS Indianapolis and the Japanese submarine. Production will shoot in Alabama, San Francisco and Kyoto, Japan. Walt Conti of Edge Innovations will provide animatronic sharks.

Warner Bros. is developing an untitled drama about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, with Robert Downey Jr. and Susan Downey producing through their Team Downey banner and Tate Taylor directing. In 2011, the studio bought life rights to Hunter Scott, whose research had helped exonerate McVay.

Saban Films launched a year ago and released “The Homesman” in November. It acquired several titles at Tribeca, including Adrien Brody thriller “Backtrack” and Simon Pegg-Lake Bell romantic comedy “Man Up.”

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