The prolific Stratus Film Co is to fully finance Remains Of The Piano, a spoof of Merchant Ivory costume dramas which has been written and will be directed by Eric Idle, his first film as director since The Ruttles in 1978.

Capitol Films is selling the film in Cannes, with no US distribution yet attached.

The film starts principal photography on Aug 18 in Canada and the UK with a large ensemble cast assembled led by Geoffrey Rush as Hopkins, a middle-aged British aristocrat who returns from India with a fortune and a piano whose life is turned upside down when he meets two women - Emma and Helen - both with enormous sexual hang-ups. Before long, he is implicated in a murder and sent packing to the west country as a butler.

Joining Rush are Anjelica Huston as Countess Von Kunst, Alfred Molina as Mussolini, Billy Connolly as Inspector MacGuffin, Orlando Bloom as Daniel Day Lewis, Will Kemp as Leonard Bastard, Neve Campbell as Helen, Tim Curry as Reverend Whoopsie, Michael York as Lord Darling, Patrick Stewart as Obie Ben Kingsley, Catherine O'Hara as Enid, Julian Sands as Charles and Idle himself as Frank the mover. Robin Williams is also expected to take a cameo role in Remains Of The Piano.

Stratus partners Bob Yari and Mark Gill are executive producers on the film which is produced by Joel B Michaels, Garth Drabinsky, Jim Crabbe and Peter Crabbe. The film was represented by CAA.