Continent Film's Michael Pakleppa is assembling a starry cast for The Last Unicorn, a fantasy film billing itself as Europe's answer to The Lord Of The Rings.

Christopher Lee, Angela Lansbury and Rene Auberjonois have already committed to the picture. Producer and co-director Pakleppa is in advanced talks with Mia Farrow, Jonathan Rhys Myers and Heath Ledger.

Pakleppa and co-director Julian Doyle is assembling a $45m budget ahead of a two year production and post-production schedule. Principal photography is scheduled to get underway in early 2003 although considerable work has already been done towards the CGI creation of the central unicorn character.

The story is that of the last unicorn left on earth, who is forced to go on a journey of discovery after her remaining companions have been captured by a demonic fire creature. It is based on a novel by Peter Beagle which was previously adapted as an animated film in 1983. Beagle will write the screenplay.

"We have already has serious offers for territorial rights in Japan, France and Germany and are in discussions with several of the majors," said Pakleppa.

CGI effects will be created at the UK's Red Vision and Hungary's Studio Fot with animatronics from the UK's Animated Extras.