Charles Sturridge, theBATFA-award winning director of Shackleton and Longitude, haswritten and is set to direct a live-action version of Lassie with his Firstsight Films and New York-based ClassicMedia set to produce.
Firstsight's SelwynRoberts, who shared BAFTA honours with Sturridge, and Francesca Barra willserve as producers while Classic Media's chairman and chief executiveofficer Eric Ellenbogen and head of international Doug Schwalbe will serve asexecutive producers.
Sturridge delivered the screenplaylate last year based on Eric Knight's best-selling 1938 novel LassieCome Home and production is set tobegin this spring in the British locations of Yorkshire and the ScottishHighlands.
The two companies areholding talks with US distributors and Barra and Schwalbe will be representingthe project internationally at the AFM in Santa Monica later this month.
"It's apicaresque tale of adventure and landscape set in Britain before the secondworld war," Sturridge told Screendaily.com.
"The story tells ofthis hard-up family who are forced to sell their dog to a mine-owning familyand the dog's subsequent attempts to escape and return home."
"We've got thescreenplay out to several studios, all of whom are extremely interested,"Schwalbe added. "The reaction to the screenplay has been superb andwe're looking forward to doing business at the AFM.
"At Classic Mediawe're always looking at ways of evaluating our properties and bringingthem to audiences in a contemporary way. Everyone loves Lassie and the way toreinvigorate the property is to partner up with top creative talent likeCharles and everyone at Firstsight."
"We're lookingfor British stories that stand out," Sturridge, who co-founded Firstsightwith Roberts and Barra in 2001, said. "When Classic showed us this storywe wanted to become partners on the project."
The first of many filmversions featuring Lassie appeared in theatres in 1943 and the character alsostarred in the popular television series that launched in the 1950s.
Firstsight is currentlydeveloping a new screenplay based on Christopher Isherwood's BerlinStories with Double A Films, as wellas a remake of the classic horror film Witchfinder General with the UK Film Council.
Classic Media manages familyentertainment property rights and owns an extensive library featuring suchanimated and live-action characters like Casper The Friendly Ghost, RudolphThe Red-Nosed Reindeer, The LoneRanger and Underdog.
It is developing live-actionversions of Underdog withSpyglass Entertainment and The Lone Ranger with Columbia Pictures and Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher's Red WagonProductions.