Christian Duguay, whosecredits include The Art Of Warand the mini-series Hitler: Rise Of Evil, has been signed to direct the $80m fantasy adventure The Runelords which is being co-produced by Franchise Pictures,Story Island Entertainment, Canyonlight Entertainment and EntertainmentBusiness Group (EBG).

The Runelords is the first of three sword and sorcery tales basedon David Farland's bestselling novels The Runelords, Brotherhood Of The Wolf and Wizardborn and is due to begin principal photography in Prague in June withdomestic release set for 2005.

"At the heart of TheRunelords lies a world grapplingwith issues that closely resemble the ones we're dealing with today: a clash ofcivilisations, charismatic leaders and their unsavoury agendas and perhaps mostimportant of all, the struggle to live in harmony with nature," Duguay said ina statement.

"Set against this is aninspired love story that asks universal questions about the values we live by,the values we take for granted and humanity's eternal search and struggle forways to improve ourselves and the world we live in."

Runelords producer Anne Marie Gillen (Fried Green Tomatoes,Under Suspicion) paid tribute toDuguay's "unique vision" for the picture and announced that Mark "Crash"McCreery had also been signed as concept artist. McCreery's credits include JurassicPark I and II, Men In Black II and The Hulk.

Elie Samaha is serving asexecutive producer and Joseph Merhi will produce the three films for Franchise.EBG is directing international sales, electronic games and merchandising.