Gibson is also producing the film nearly two decades after he acquired the movie rights to the Simon Winchester book. Farhad Safinia will direct the drama with plans to start shooting in September in Europe.
The script was originally penned by Todd Komarnicki and John Boorman with Safinia rewriting. Safinia previously wrote “Apocalypto,” which Gibson’s Icon produced and Gibson directed.
Bruce Davey of Icon will produce. Voltage Pictures will handle worldwide distribution rights for the picture and plans to start selling territories at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival.
Gibson plays professor James Murray, who began compiling the OED in 1857 and led the overseeing committee. Penn would portray Dr. William Chester Minor, who submitted more than 10,000 entries while he was an inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane.
Gibson directed the World War II action-drama “Hacksaw Ridge,” which Lionsgate releases on Nov. 4. Penn directed “The Last Face,” starring Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May.
Safinia created the Starz series “Boss,” which starred Kelsey Grammer and ran for two seasons.
Voltage’s producing credits include “Dallas Buyers Club” and “The Hurt Locker.”
Gibson is represented by Ric Nicita. Penn is repped by CAA and Hirsch Wallerstein. Safania is repped by WME.