Shooting starts today in London and at Shepperton Studios on Compleat Female Stage Beauty, an adaptation of Jeffrey Hatcher's play directed by Richard Eyre. Icon Entertainment International has come on board the picture to handle international sales; Artisan Entertainment is the domestic distributor.

The film is set in the 1660s and tells the story of Edward "Ned" Kynaston who, since women are forbidden to appear on stage, is England's most celebrated leading lady. When Charles II decides to allow real women to tread the boards - and bars men from playing women's parts - Ned is cast out of the spotlight and embarks on a personal journey.

Hatcher also wrote the screenplay.

The film stars Billy Crudup and Claire Danes, along with a range of UK talent including Rupert Everett, Tom Wilkinson, Ben Chaplin, Hugh Bonneville, Richard Griffiths and Edward Fox. Cast also includes Tom Hollander, Clare Higgins, Fenella Woolgar, Alice Eve and newcomer Zoe Tapper.

The film is produced and financed by N1 European Filmproduktions-GmbH & Co. KG in association with Qwerty Films. Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Hardy Justice produce for Tribeca Productions, with Michael Dreyer co-producing. Michael Kuhn, James D. Stern and Richard Eyre take executive producer credits.

Artisan optioned and developed the project with Tribeca and serves as co-producer, as well as US distributor. Rachel Cohen, senior vice president, production and acquisitions, serves as Artisan's production executive. Artisan productions are traditionally handled internationally by Summit Entertainment, but Icon stepped in on this picture.

UK distribution will be handled by Momentum Pictures from whom BBC Films has purchased the UK television rights.

The streets of 17th century London will be constructed on the grounds of the Royal Naval College at Greenwich. Two Restoration theatres, the grand Betterton and the popular Cockpit, will be built at Shepperton Studios.

Key crew members include Jim Clay (About A Boy) cinematographer Andrew Dunn (Gosford Park), costume designer Tim Hatley, composer George Fenton (Ghandi), makeup artist Lisa Westcott (Shakespeare In Love) and editor Tariq Anwar (American Beauty).

Director Eyre - whose Iris won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Jim Broadbent, and received nominations for both Judi Dench and Kate Winslet - is a former director of London's National Theatre.