Prolific UK producer Jeremy Thomas of Recorded Picture Company is in pre-production on a drama based on the life of Charles Darwin.

The film will be directed by Jon Amiel (The Core, Entrapment, Sommersby) and John Collee (Happy Feet, Master And Commander) will adapt from Randal Keynes' 2001 book Annie's Box.

The story will focus on Darwin's relationship with his eldest daughter Annie and her early death, which acts as a catalyst for his work on The Origin Of The Species. 'In terms of size and scope I think it will be something like Finding Neverland,' Jeremy Thomas told The budget is likely to be about $20m.

The script is being adapted now with an eye to have the feature ready for 2009, the bicentennial year of Darwin's birth.

The project will shoot in the UK, potentially on location at Darwin's family home Down House in Kent.

No casting has been set yet, but Thomas noted that Darwin would have been in his 40s during the time of this story.

'It's a very interesting story to look at today because of all the current debates on Creationism. There was uproar in the 19th century and the debate's still raging today,' Thomas said.

The film is being developed as part of RPC's Super Slate development deal with the UK Film Council.

RPC's sister company HanWay will handle international sales. HanWay's other forthcoming projects include Julian Jarrold's Brideshead Revisited, Phillip Noyce's Dirt Music and Michael Winterbottom's Genova.