Having burst onto cinema screens as violent Australian criminal Mark "Chopper" Read, Eric Bana is to return to comedy, the genre in which he made his name as a stand-up and TV comedian.

Bana's second Australian film after last year's Chopper will be Nugget, the story of three road workers who stumble upon the world's biggest nugget of gold. Writer-director Bill Bennett is scheduled to start principal photography in August. International sales duties go to Overseas Filmgroup, while Roadshow will release the film in Australia and New Zealand.

Executive producer Richard Sheffield described the film as "a gut-busting laugh fest that will appeal to those who go to multiplexes".

Bana, currently in Morocco for Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down, started his career as a stand-up comedian in Melbourne. He made his name as a TV comedian on shows such as comedy sketch series Full Frontal, typically playing, sensitive, naïve types.

Bill Bennett is producing with Jennifer Bennett. Sheffield, head of rival distributor Becker Entertainment, worked on Bill Bennett's In A Savage Land while at PolyGram and was invited on board by Bennett before re-joining Becker.

The project's investors include the Australian Film Finance Corporation and the Premium Movie Partnership, which will screen the film on its pay-TV movie service, Showtime. Bennett is now in production on US film Tempted, which he shot in New Orleans for Gold Circle Films and TF1 International.