British stars Felicity Jones (The Tempest), Rupert Friend (The Young Victoria), Rhys Ifans and Bill Nighy have come on board for This Beautiful Fantastic, which BAFTA winner Joel Hopkins (Last Chance Harvey) will direct.

Bankside is selling the project here at AFM, handling all international rights. The script, by Simon Aboud, appeared on the 2009 Brit List of the hottest unmade British scripts.

Kami Naghdi (Rescue Dawn) of London‐based Constance Media will produce, with Matt Treadwell as co‐producer. Bankside’s Compton Ross and Phil Hunt will executive produce.

The story follows a meticulous librarian named Bella Brown, whose world is changed by a messy inventor named Billy and a cantankerous elderly neighbour.

Hopkins said he has been looking for the right project to follow 2008’s Dustin Hoffman starrer Last Chance Harvey. “Normally I write my own material, so I was keen to do something I hadn’t written. This script really popped out,” Hopkins told Screen. “It’s taken a while to have found something I’ve liked to have written. The dialogue is terrific and really spiky. It’s quite a magical story but its more magical if it has a certain realism to it, I want the bits of magic to have an earthiness to it.”

The project is described as a “modern fairy tale,” but director Hopkins assured Screen that it’s not all sweetness and light. “It has this balance of pathos and whimsy. Some people have described it as a British Amelie, but I think it’s Amelie meets Withnail and I or Amelie meets The Station Agent.”

Of the cast, he said: “I loved the opportunity to cast through all different age spectrums, it almost feels like four leads in a way to it was attractive to actors.” Ifans will be wrapping up his duties on Spider-Man in time for the Beautiful Fantastic shoot, he noted.

Hopkins continued: “It’s these three very disparate characters who end up spending time together its always something I’m looking to do, forcing strangers together. I did that with Jump Tomorrow and to some extent with Last Chance Harvey.”

The film is set to shoot on location in the UK starting in late March 2011. The film-makers are currently nailing down locations, considering cities such as Bristol and Brighton.

Hilary Davis, co-managing director of Bankside, added: “We are thrilled to return to the AFM with this highly original screenplay which has already garnered so much attention in the marketplace. Joel Hopkins is the perfect director to bring this enchanting story to life. The fact that he has attracted some of the UK’s finest actors to the cast is testament to the universal belief in the project.”

Hopkins said he is also writing two of his own scripts; and writing the adaptation of children’s book Lizard Music by Daniel Pinkwater, for producer Jawal Nga of Tiny Dancer Films.