UK film superbody the Film Council is close to investing in iconic US indie film-maker Robert Altman's UK-set satire Gosford Park which will be distributed domestically by USA Films and internationally by Capitol Films.

The body is negotiating to board the 1930s-set satire, for which Altman aims to secure an ensemble cast of leading local talent including Jude Law, Kristin Scott Thomas and Emily Watson. The move would make the high-profile UK-US collaboration one of the first greenlit by Robert Jones, head of the council's commercial-oriented production fund, the Premiere Fund.

Jones and a contingent of Film Council executives hit this year's Sundance to build relationships with US film-makers as part of the council's ambitious plans to work with both US and international film-makers.

But, with the project's shoot date looming next month, the council appears to still have serious budgetary concerns. According to reports, USA is only paying $3m for domestic rights on the $14m production, $1m-$2m less than might be expected on a film of that size. USA paid only 27% of the budget of IEG's Traffic on condition that it makes a hefty P&A commitment on the film's release.

Altman has already invested siginificant amounts of his own capital on the development and casting of the film, in order to guarantee a slot at Shepperton Studios, although that will be refunded. The director famous for other ensemble pieces such as Nashville, Short Cuts and Pret A Porter is producing with Bob Balaban.

Adding to the project's UK credential's, Altman is lining up local acting talent including Jeremy Northam, Helen Mirren, Stephen Fry and Derek Jacobi. Shooting is due to start at Shepperton in March.

Apparently inspired by Renoir's 1939 classic La Regle Du Jeu, the Julian Fellowes script revolves around a murder at a country estate where an eclectic mixture of people ranging from aristocrats to a Hollywood star are surrounded by their servants.

Capitol Films was not available for comment by press time.