UK-based producer Iain Smith (Cold Mountain, Children Of Men) is in advanced development on The Originals, a Chariots Of Fire-style drama about the exploits of the famous 1905 New Zealand All Black rugby team during their tour of Great Britain. The team was known as 'The Originals.'

Mark Joffe is to direct the $20m project, being set up as a UK/Australia/New Zealand co-production. Sam Neill is attached to the project and will also be producing. Working Title is reportedly also in the frame as a potential partner.

'It's a great story because it (the tour) really was the precursor to New Zealand separating from the mother country (Britain),' said Smith, who has previously worked on films including Children of Men and Cold Mountain.

Most of the financing is now in place. The aim is to go into production later in 2008. Shooting will take place in New Zealand and the UK.

'The All Blacks themselves are very keen to see this story made. It is a great story for them,' Smith said of the current New Zealand rugby union team. He added that he had also received 'no end of informal approaches from rugby friends who who are saying they would love either to advise or be in the film.'

The achievements of the 1905 New Zeland team are still celebrated today. The team won 35 matches, beating all Britain's top sides as well as French and American opposition, and losing only once (Wales beat them 3-0 in controversial circumstances.)

'It is not really about the sport. It is about the journey of these men and what they achieve,' Smith added.