EXCLUSIVE: The star joins Felicity Jones on J A Bayona’s A Monster Calls, which Patrick Wachsberger and his Lionsgate International team will introduce on the Croisette.

Focus Features will distribute the fantasy drama in the US in October 2016.

Patrick Ness adapted the screenplay for A Monster Calls from his novel of the same name, about the unexpected bond that develops between a young boy and a beast that visits him in nightmares.

Thirteen-year-old Conor O’Malley is troubled by his mother’s declining health, school bullies and the yew tree in his backyard that transforms at night into a monster that narrates strange stories.

Over time what the terrifying visitor tells the boy enables him to come to terms with life’s truths. Neeson will play the monster.

Returning to duty are Belen Atienza, who produced Pan’s Labyrinth as well as Bayona’s The Impossible and The Orphanage, and Bayona’s effect collaborators on The Impossible, El Ranchito VFX.

Lionsgate International’s Cannes slate includes the Denis Villeneuve thriller Sicario to star Emily Blunt and Benicio Del Toro, and Sean Penn directing vehicle The Last Face, a romance from River Road to star Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem.